Erling Håland – the rise of potential world-class talent from Norway
Sunday 1st July 2018 will go down as the day that Erling Braut Håland truly burst onto the scene. Before then he had long been earmarked as an exceptional young talent, but his performance away against Brann that day sent shockwaves around Norway’s Eliteserien and beyond.
Heading into that contest Brann were unbeaten in 14 games, top of the table and had only conceded five goals. Yet in the blink of an eye, this fresh-faced teenager Erling Håland completely tore their season apart by scoring four goals inside the first 20 minutes. It was an astonishing feat and one sensed it announced his major footballing arrival on the big stage.
Things then developed quickly. The Norwegian had an ‘Indian Summer’ of fine form. Every week he kept racking up goals, assists and fantastic performances. He was instrumental in defeating Vålerenga & Brann once again, on both occasions 5-1. There was a Europa League qualifying match away against Irish minnows Glenavon in mid-July where scouts from as many as 30+ major top-flight clubs were reported to have attended. They weren’t just there for a few pints of Guinness either. Within six weeks Erling Håland was a Red Bull Salzburg player for a fee close to £4.5m. He would join them in January 2019. The Austrian outfit knew that they had a fine young talent on their hands but even they probably didn’t foresee what has been a stratospheric rise.
Since moving to Salzburg, Håland has unsurprisingly improved nearly all of his attacking statistics. His goals per 90 mins have increased by over 150% from 0.66 to an unbelievable 1.68. Perhaps even more impressively, his xG per 90 mins at Salzburg is just 0.99, so he’s comfortably performing much better in front of goal than what should be attained. At Molde, the Norwegian youngster was only just matching his xG, so there has been a significant improvement in this area. It’s a common theme in pretty much every final third department. His stats have shown some extremely positive trends. Håland’s assists per 90 mins have doubled in Austria, whilst the likes of his dribbling success rate, accurate crosses & offensive duels won have all surpassed his Molde levels.
The ‘offensive duels’ category is a good one to focus on. At Molde in 2018, he was winning 35.9% of those contests. At Salzburg, that figure has increased to 44.4%. An increase of around the 10% mark in this sort of statistic isn’t to be underestimated. A lot has been made of Braut Håland’s increased physique, and he has certainly made great strides in that department. We must remember that in the 2018 season he was still a 17-year-old for Molde at one stage. Håland is now a much stronger player in terms of build and this is definitely one of the main reasons why he is winning more of these duels. He isn’t just using pure raw physical strength to outmuscle opponents though. His skill level has also improved and there are some instances below where better technical ability is enabling him to beat the opposition.
Some might argue that a lot of the statistical attacking improvements from Håland can simply be attributed to him being in a better team, surrounded by higher class teammates in a league that Salzburg is so dominant in. Those factors can’t be ignored but can also contribute towards someone developing into a better player themselves. However, with these individual offensive duels, it’s almost entirely down to Håland himself. What is so impressive is how he has suddenly become such a physical force in really big matches against top-quality opposition.
Stepping onto club football’s biggest stage – the UEFA Champions League – has been no issue. In the sequence below he manages to comprehensively win a duel with Kalidou Koulibaly. The Senegalese international has a market value of close to £70m and is considered one of the top defenders in the world. If Håland is doing this at just 19 years of age, then imagine what he can achieve as he grows even stronger in the future?
The world now appears to be Erling Håland’s oyster. Most people always knew that a move to RB Salzburg would be a ‘stepping stone’ club for Håland if he developed as expected. But the consensus was that he’d be in Austria to develop for at least two or three seasons. It now looks like his stay will be much shorter than anticipated. In recent weeks he has been continually linked with several big clubs in Europe, from Liverpool, Manchester United and PSG to the likes of Juventus, Real Madrid and Napoli. One particular club, Manchester United, has always been earmarked as one of the favourites to land the Norwegian superstar. This is because his old boss at Molde was none other than Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
However, Erling is the son of Alf-Inge Håland and in 2000 was born in Leeds whilst his father was playing for the fallen giant of English football, Leeds United. Håland is a self-confessed lifelong Leeds United fan and in 2017 once said to Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten that his overall dream is to ‘one day win the Premier League with Leeds’. That may well be a pipe dream now, but would he move to Leeds’ arch-rivals across the Pennines? It could be a moral personal dilemma. The positive for Manchester United is they have the resources, pulling power and funds to bring in someone of Håland’s talent. Because make no mistake about it, his next move is going to be big money – £50 million at the very least and probably more if several clubs are competing for his signature.
It might be he’s sold as early as this January, although Salzburg is reportedly keen for a loan back until the end of the season. Whatever happens, we know that amazing Norwegian talent is making huge strides in the game right now and he will go right to the very very top.