Erling Haaland: What is so special about him?
Background image: Paul Lowry, CC BY 2.0
Erling Haaland is a hot name in Europe right now. The Norwegian teenager scored a hat-trick in his Champions League debut. He made headlines over the summer when he scored nine goals in a 12-0 rout over Honduras in the FIFA Under-20 World Cup. Needless to say, he won the tournament's Golden Boot. Haaland worked under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the baby-faced assassin speaks highly of him.
His development over the past 18 months frightens. He is fast becoming a household name. He's responded astoundingly to new RB Salzburg manager Jesse Marsch's ministrations since arriving from Molde. Recently, he was also shortlisted for the Golden Boy 2019 award for his stellar performances since arriving at the club.
The son of Manchester City midfielder Alf-Inge Haaland, he has ambitions of becoming a more successful player than his father and to win the Premier League with Leeds United. Standing at 6'2", he strikes you as too agile for a player of his thickness.
His versatility is a coach's dream. He can be a supporting striker, a target man or even a false nine. Marsch sets his team up in a 4-4-2 or 3-5-2. He shuffles between Haaland and Hwang Hee-Chan to lead the line. Not knowing where Haaland will be is a defender's nightmare.
His burgeoning reputation attracts attention, drawing defenders out of position, creating space behind for teammates and wider channels through which to connect. Opponents expose themselves by tasking two or three players to him and yet he still takes more than his share of goals.
This is not a classic "too good to be true" story. It's easy to dismiss Haaland's play with Salzburg by belittling the quality in the Austrian Bundesliga but die Rotenbullen hammered Genk 6-2 in the Champions League and took holders Liverpool to the limit in a seven-goal thriller. At Anfield. In addition, League rivals Wolfsberg romped over Borussia Monchengladbach 4-0 before drawing with Roma 1-1 in the Europa League. Gladbach is coached by former Salzburg boss Marco Rose. This is a dangerous player spearheading a dangerous team.
Despite RB Salzburg's emergence, Haaland deserves a bigger stage to showcase his skills. With Solskjaer in charge, Manchester United have kept close tabs for over a year. Others are noticing too. A prolific scorer with natural instincts, someone will land him sooner rather than later.
Salzburg are yet to run their race in the Champions League. They will play against Napoli twice and the home leg against the Merseysiders. These are more chances for the youngster to shine. Haaland's display over the Champions League group match at Anfield against the Kops was a statement on its own. Minutes after coming on the pitch, he poked a pitch-perfect cross from Minamino from a few yards out.
Mino Raiola is his agent. Yes, Mino Raiola. It is inevitable that he will leave Salzburg and join a European giant. RB Leipzig is also a possibility due to its association with Salzburg. Wherever he lands, Erling Haaland has all he needs. The kid is destined for success.