Norwegian Erling Haaland is twenty-two years old, and a 6’5” striker who has just joined Manchester City in the English Premier League this season, where he has played eight games and scored fourteen goals, including three consecutive home game hat tricks. His country did not make it to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, but his will be one of the big shadows hovering over the pitches of the quadrennial tourney, waiting for an opportunity to showcase his wares at the next show.
Now let us assume that he drops his production by 50% over the remaining 24 games of the Premiership season, and he only scores 21 goals—he would have scored a total of 35 goals or three more than the current best-ever goals in a season record holder Mohamed Salah. Let’s not get carried away with anything better than that 50% mark or we may get into ridiculous goal-scoring figures.
Prior to coming to England Haaland played in the Austrian Bundesliga for Red Bull Salzburg for whom he played 16 games and scored 17 goals. Thereafter he moved to Borussia Dortmund in the German Bundesliga, where he played 67 matches and only scored 62 goals. Then he moved to Manchester City. His senior club career amounts to 91 games during which he has scored 93 goals. Oh, yeah, he has played 23 games for Norway’s National Team and scored 21 goals and he has played 21 UEFA Champions League games for his three clubs combined scoring 26 goals. He doesn’t seem to step onto a pitch without scoring.
Haaland is tall, weighs 194 pounds, and is built like an American Football tight end. He can jump a few inches lower than CR7’s 41+ inches, but if Erling only jumped, say, 31 inches in the air he would be reaching nine feet high, or a foot over the crossbar. So, yes, he can out-jump most defenders and does score his fair share of headers. He is also fast, powerful, has a strong and very accurate left foot, and is as much a menace when streaking down the field on a breakaway as he is with his back toward the goal near the box or prowling inside the box. He is a center-forward’s center-forward.
Since Norway did not make the 2022 World Cup Haaland will be playing without the pressures many of his teammates and opponents carry. Furthermore, when they get back from Qatar he will be rested and not banged up. So, expect goal-scoring records to fall come next year as the second half of domestic play resumes.
As Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo reach the sunsets of their careers, as do Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, and Robert Lewandowski, and the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, Mohamed Salah, and Neymar linger on but reach the last plateaus of theirs, we turn to the next generation of super players. We find that aside from France’s Kylian Mbappe—and to a lesser extent perhaps Spain’s Pedri—both featuring in Qatar with a chance to add to their auras, only Haaland has the potential to make the run for the Ballon d’ Or a competition with either, worthy of the Ronnie-Lio decade.
Once Norway develops a few more players to accompany Martin Odegaard and Haaland, it will be fun to see this upcoming Scandinavian generation make its mark on the world stage. By the time they do, Haaland will have amassed a few scoring records and begun to have his reign compared to that of the departing CR7.
Photo: Erling Haaland, Shutterstock ID 2181737403, by froarn.