Erling Haaland is ready for his next step up in Pep’s Manchester City team, says Fjortoft

When did I first realise that Erling, the son of my former team-mate Alfie Haaland, was a phenomenon? Was it from all the talk of Alfie’s boy among our group of old Norway players? Or when I first saw him play at Molde at 16?

Was it when he scored nine goals in one game for Norway’s Under-20s? Or when he texted to tell me I’d gone to the wrong game after I missed him hit a hat-trick on his Champions League debut aged just 18.

Erling moved to Molde from his home-town club Bryne, a small place in Rogaland county on the west coast of Norway. Don’t make the mistake of saying he is from nearby Stavanger, or he won’t talk to you again!

Byrne is farming country, with down-to-earth people. The caricature in Norway is that they don’t speak much. In fact, they speak if they have something to say. Otherwise, they keep quiet. They don’t suffer fools. You can see a bit of that in Erling.

But we had heard about the Haaland boy a little before then. I played with Alfie at the World Cup in 1994, a golden era for Norway. We hadn’t qualified for a World Cup since 1938 but we’d made it by knocking out Graham Taylor’s England in qualifying.

Most of the squad were playing in the Premier League. I was at Swindon and then Middlesbrough, Sheffield United and Barnsley, Alfie at Nottingham Forest, Manchester City and Leeds. There were about 20 of us Norwegians in England and we would get together every year for a big lunch with our wives. We were like our own special club and loved playing for our country together.

We would all end up going our separate ways, but we stayed in touch. And there was some talk about Alfie’s boy. Alfie is proud of all of his family. But in football circles, it was this young Haaland we kept hearing about.

We didn’t really see him properly until the move to Molde, where he played under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, another of Alfie’s former Norway team-mates. He was a thinner, lighter version of what he is today. All arms and legs, still growing.

Why Molde? They’re big in Norway but they’re not exactly a European giant. Maybe some people thought Alfie let sentiment get in the way, because Ole was the coach? That’s just not how it works with Team Haaland, as I have christened them. They make calculated decisions.

Solskjaer was a finisher. Who better to school a teenager who still had much to learn? They could have taken him to the top clubs in Europe. But Alfie and his family are too smart for that. They wanted him to develop. As a striker, I knew the value as a teenager of sometimes playing against slightly weaker opposition, where you get lots of chances. Some coaches think it’s too easy. I say you’re learning your craft, practising your finishing at a level where you’ll get plenty of scoring opportunities.

I guess Norway discovered him a year into his time at Molde. They went to Brann Bergen and Erling, still looking like a college kid, scored four in 17 minutes. Watching it on YouTube, you will recognise those distinctive runs from deep, the powerful stride, the defenders embarrassed and the familiar cool finishing. Everything we have become used to now. That made everyone sit up and take notice. It was a little like when Wayne Rooney scored that goal against Arsenal at 16. Except that Rooney was almost a man at 16. Erling wasn’t.

When did the world begin to notice? Maybe it was time a couple of years later when he scored nine goals against Honduras in the Under 20 World Cup. Even in Under 20 football, that is something else. In Norway, we knew and by the time he was 18, all the important scouts knew. But for most people he still stayed under the radar.

There was a chance to move at 19 and by now the big clubs were mobilising. There was a big offer from Juventus on the table. I’m sure there were other big clubs. His choice? Red Bull Salzburg in the Austrian Bundesliga. It is the Bundesliga of sorts, but they will say as they look down their noses in Germany: ‘It’s Austria!’ But I had played in Austria so I could understand what Team Haaland were doing. Salzburg are by far the strongest, richest team so he would have lots of chances and score plenty of goals. Again, he could develop his goalscoring skills. And they would be in the Champions League. So it was a step up, but in a secure, controlled environment.

So when did I know for sure that he was something special? When he made his Champions League debut against Genk, Liverpool were in the same group and we debated with my TV producers which game I, as a Norwegian, should be at. Liverpool at Napoli was the bigger game but there was already interest in Norway in this prodigy. I went to Naples. And Erling had scored a hat-trick by half-time and they won 6-2! I got a text from Erling at the final whistle: ‘You went to the wrong game!’ I don’t think I’ve missed a game of his since.

Salzburg played Liverpool in the next game. Erling only came on after 56 minutes and was up against Virgil van Dijk. Of course, I was keeping a special eye on him and this was the night I truly realised how good he might be.

The runs he was making, against top-class defenders, were unbelievable. He was drawing them out of position, creating space. He was 18! This is a craft it usually takes years to develop. And he had come on as a sub in what was already a high-scoring game. He scored after just four minutes to make it 3-3. Salzburg lost 4-3 but what an impact he had had made. In 30 minutes, he could have scored a hat-trick.

He was running into space with ease past Van Dijk. I asked the Liverpool defender afterwards about Erling. ‘We won the game, which is the main thing. I didn’t see a lot of him,’ he said. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘I guess for a striker it’s good if a defender doesn’t see him a lot!’ I didn’t get another question!

But it was true. He has these ghost-like runs which seem to blindside defenders. He can create space for himself because he will make a feint and draw the defender and then change direction. He was doing it at Anfield against Van Dijk and Joe Gomez. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The defender is always on the back foot, reacting to what he striker does. He doesn’t know where the striker will run. But Erling can exploit that almost like no other striker.

His timed runs are unbelievable. He never goes offside. Defenders hate this kind of player. He can find the defender he wants to play off and bully him with those runs and when he has the space, he has those powerful legs striding out. It just like in the jungle, where the strongest animal will look for the weakest in the herd. He will find where a team is vulnerable.

Like with Rooney, because of their strength, which you can see so obviously with your eyes, people don’t always look closer and see what good footballers these players are. The way they read the game is like a sixth sense. Rooney was underestimated in that as well because it looks so instinctive.

Watch his runs. This is a man who understands football and his brain can react quicker than even the best. Erling sees space before anyone else, then, with the run he can create that space himself. So if you understand him, he is so easy to play with. He and Jadon Sancho were brilliant like that together at Borussia Dortmund.

By now, Erling wasn’t really a secret but his development at Salzburg had surprised everyone, including Team Haaland. I guess the plan was to stay another year but eight goals in six games in the Champions League showed he was ready to step up again.

There was the chance to go to Bayern Munich, but they had Robert Lewandowski and only play with one striker. There was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s famous private jet flight from Manchester to Salzburg to talk him into joining Manchester United. You wonder what might have happened if Ole had managed to persuade him? But football is full of what ifs! It wasn’t as if he turned down Ole and United. As Team Haaland said, he chose Dortmund.

If you move to Manchester United, that is an end-game transfer. You don’t do two years there and move on elsewhere. It’s a move for the best years of your career. And it wasn’t time for that move. Dortmund had the reputation for developing young players in Lewandowski, Mario Gotze and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. They offered the chance to develop outside the bubble of the Premier League.

Dortmund was just big enough to test himself. They had huge crowds and the Yellow Wall, which would have been an attraction. But despite how good they are, Dortmund is still a relatively small city, a little bit off the beaten track.

I was there for his first game at Augsburg. Erling was on the bench. Dortmund’s head of communications was telling me there was no chance to interview him after because he was just a sub. Then he came on after 56 minutes. Within three minutes he had scored, so I texted the comms guy: ‘Can I have him now?!’ ‘We’ll see,’ he replied.

He scored his second in the 70th minute and I sent the comms guys a heart emoji. And he sent one back, so I knew there was a chance. By the time Erling completed his hat-trick, the comms guys was with me in the tunnel celebrating! And, yes, we did get him for an interview.

A word on those interviews. Yes, sometimes Erling likes to play with interviewers. He makes you think twice about a question you asked. But remember, he comes from that part of the world where you don’t have to talk too much unless you have something to say. But he is a great young man to talk to, it’s just sometimes we expect a teenager to come from a Champions League game and be Barack Obama.

But he took it well. He doesn’t really care about the clothes, the watches, money. He cares about his mum and dad, his brothers and sister. It is that family unit that has allowed to him to get to where he is and ensured he hasn’t lost his way en route. Sometimes having your family and your dad as advisor can be bad. Not with Team Haaland. Alfie knows the pitfalls.

That game against Augsburg announced him in Germany. It showed them straightaway that he was serious. There was immediate excitement and I remember saying on German TV the morning after: ‘It’s good that he’s waking up in Dortmund not Manchester this morning.’ Because the celebrity factor is just that bit less intense in Dortmund.

What he has achieved in the Bundesliga is unbelievable: 62 goals in 67 games and 86 in 89 games in total. This is the league of Gerd Muller, Lewandowski. It’s a scoring rate that only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo can approach in the top leagues and one which only Kylian Mbappe gets near now in France, or Mohammed Salah in one of the best seasons.

Now there is another step up because we all know the pressure and the media and TV is bigger again in England. It will all be about Pep against Klopp, City against Liverpool and Darwin Nunez against Haaland. But he has to live with that and, with the support of his family, he can.

It’s interesting that again they have made a graded step. They have gone with a coach in Pep Guardiola who can develop Erling and add to his game in a possession-based team when they say he’s a counter-attack striker. At City it will be different. He will have to adapt and learn.

I know him well enough to say he will adapt and learn. He’s a 24-7 athlete in his preparation, diet and mental attitude. But City will also have to adapt to him as well. He brings something that Guardiola’s City team has never really had, a direct centre-forward. So it is going to take time to learn his runs and feints. But they will surely create chances for him and he will surely score them.

I know people are already making a judgment after the Community Shield. He missed an open goal! Van Dijk had him in his pocket! But on a day where he clearly wasn’t at his best, he still might have scored a hat-trick. It might take weeks to see this team and player come together. He is human being after all. It’s not like buying a tool for your car which fits straightaway.

In his core, he won’t change. His family will ensure that. Every year, we organise a charity day with the Crown Prince of Norway and his family. We have a team called Skaugum United — Skaugum being the estate where the Royal Family live — and we play a game there with group of disabled footballers. This year the game was the day after he had announced signing for City. But Erling was there, in my team, along with his youngest sisters who also played, and Alfie. I signed them all for my team! You can imagine the interest around him. He is the most famous Norwegian. But he showed up and was great with the kids. We had a fantastic day.

But as the hype intensifies and the number of journalists and headlines magnify, you have to change to survive in this circus. That’s why it’s so good he has Alfie next to him. Erling is a fantastic young man and in many ways like any typical 22-year-old. It’s just that he’s one of the best strikers in the world. And he has the potential to take another step and improve again, which is frightening.

Welcome to England, Erling, And welcome to your dad’s old club. We’re going to enjoy watching the next step up.

Добавить комментарий

Журналист Дмитрий Губерниев прокомментировал переход форварда Артема Дзюбы в турецкий…
В Норвегии опасаются санкций Всемирного антидопингового агентства (WADA) за нарушение…
Бывший игрок английского «Манчестер Юнайтед» Андрей Канчельскис посоветовал форварду клуба…
Labour divisions over striking workers deepen
Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said joining the picket line would not “sort out” industrial disputes. But former leader Jeremy…
Rishi Sunak: ‘I think my ideas are the right ones’
The ex-Chancellor has consistently trailed opponent Liz Truss, with latest polling showing him 32 points behind. Education Secretary James Cleverly…
  • 1 час, 58 минут назад 19.08.2022Sport
    Ash Barty reveals her big retirement regret about Serena Williams as American prepares to bow out

    Aussie tennis ace Ash Barty has spoken for the first time about her unfinished business with Serena Williams as she admitted she would have loved one last crack against the retiring American superstar.

    Williams, a 40-year-old 23-time grand slam champion, has announced she will be retiring from the sport after the US Open in September.

    Barty, 26, announced her shock retirement from tennis five months ago.

    The pair only faced each other twice over the years, with Serena winning on both occasions.

    Williams beat a teenage Barty at the Australian Open in 2014 in straight sets, 6-2 6-1, before getting another one over the Aussie golden girl at the French Open in 2018.

    Their second meeting was a closer affair, reflecting Barty’s huge improvement, with the Aussie going down in three after winning the first set 6-3.

    Barty told the Sydney Morning Herald that she doesn’t have any regrets from her playing career, but she wouldn’t mind another go at Williams to try and get one back.

    ‘The first [time] I was a very young girl who was intimidated,’ said Barty.

    ‘The second time I thought I had a chance and I did. But the way that she plays and her greatness was too good for me.

    ‘I would have loved to have challenged myself one last time. That’s my competitive spirit, and me learning from the experiences that I had.

    ‘Not many people on this planet get to say that they played Serena and I’m one of those few people that really got to experience her when she was at her best.

    ‘And I think that was really exciting. It’s a memory and an experience that I’ll never forget and learnt a lot from.’

    Earlier in the week Ash Barty announced her new and very unusual job title with one of Australia’s biggest companies. She’s the new Chief of Inspiration for Optus – a role that comes with an unusual title.

    ‘Inspiration for me has always been my north star, helping inspire Aussies and encouraging them to be the best version of themselves – and I cannot wait to do that with Optus,’ said Barty.

    Since her shock retirement in March after a fairytale win at the Australian Open, Barty has been very active.

    The three-time major winner married long-time partner Garry Kissick, did a shoey at Mick Fanning’s charity golf day and released a range of children’s books and spent plenty of time on the links – sparking rumours that Barty may attempt a move into professional golf.

    The Aussie golden girl is also finalising her memoir, which is set to be available for presale in November.

  • 1 час, 58 минут назад 19.08.2022Sport
    Newcastle Knights coach Adam O’Brien admits Kalyn Ponga looks like he doesn’t care about his footy

    Knights coach Adam O’Brien has broken his silence and revealed why he thinks footy fans believe Kalyn Ponga doesn’t care about his career following the pub toilet scandal last weekend.

    O’Brien has also pledged to install a harder edge at the club in the off-season, with their 2022 dismal campaign giving rise to intense speculation about his future with the club.

    Ponga, 24, has been a magnet for criticism, but O’Brien defended his fullback, who is the co-captain and signed a monster five-year contract worth more than $5million in April.

    ‘It might come across that Kalyn might not care because of his relaxed nature and the way he speaks, but behind the scenes I see the way he acts,’ the coach told News Corp.

    ‘We haven’t seen the best of his footy, that is well and truly in front of him and he is developing in a lot of areas that don’t always get shown in 80-minute games.’

    O’Brien said the club need to develop Ponga as a leader – and while he’s disappointed with events last weekend in Newcastle’s CBD, he is reserving judgement until the NRL Integrity Unit complete their investigation into the matter.

    Speaking ahead of Sunday’s home clash versus the Raiders, O’Brien also admitted standards need to lift sooner rather than later.

    Aside from the Ponga fiasco, David Klemmer was stood down for a week after abusing head trainer Hayden Knowles on the field and this weekend outside backs Bradman Best and Enari Tuala will play NSW Cup after missing a team bus last Sunday in Brisbane.

    O’Brien also admitted to making a big error with the side this year.

    ‘I need to drive tougher standards and get the guys to where I need them to get to,’ he said.

    ‘The thing I am disappointed in myself about is that I allowed commentary around my nature to soften me in some areas.

    ‘I need to go back to myself a bit. I need to be who I am and be consistent with it and not chop and change, so the players don’t know what kind of coach they will get each day.’

    He is adamant he has enough talent in his 30-man squad to see the Knights far more competitive in 2023.

    The focus will be ‘nailing’ pre-season come November – before O’Brien added if Wests Tigers halfback Luke Brooks became available, his experience could be invaluable.

    Anthony Milford will depart the club in a few weeks to join Wayne Bennett’s Dolphins, while Jake Clifford and Adam Clune haven’t taken their opportunities in the halves.

    In better news for long-suffering Knights fans, the appointment of Peter Parr as the club’s football boss is a shrewd move.

    Parr won’t accept poor standards and will drive a culture which desperately needs to improve.

    After the Raiders clash at home this Sunday, the Knights take on the Titans and Sharks to see out what has been a testing season on many levels.

  • 1 час, 58 минут назад 19.08.2022Sport
    Manly star Dylan Walker not angry with pride jersey boycotters despite his gay brother, trans sister

    Manly’s Dylan Walker has defended the seven teammates who boycotted their crucial match against the Sydney Roosters over wearing the club’s controversial NRL Pride jersey, even though he has a gay brother and transgender sister.

    Walker has a transgender sister, Jade, and another brother who is gay and the one-time New South Wales State of Origin player happily lined up in the club’s loss to the Roosters wearing the Pride jersey.

    Josh Aloiai, Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau’atu, Tolutau Koula and Toafofoa Sipley elected not to play in that match.

    Manly has been in freefall ever since, losing 36-20 to the Parramatta Eels and getting flogged 44-24 by the lowly Gold Coast Titans to effectively rule them out of finals contention.

    There have been reported meetings between club leaders and players who boycotted the match and others who are allegedly disgruntled at their actions.

    But Walker said there was no fracture in the playing group.

    ‘In the last few weeks, the playing group has been rock solid,’ He told News Corp.

    ‘I’ve spoken to a lot of the ‘Pride boys’ — I have two gay brothers, including one who is transitioning to become a girl, but it didn’t hurt me.

    ‘It was such an important game in our season, but if you are going to stand for something you believe in, how can you be angry with them for that?

    ‘They [my family] weren’t angry at all. They said, ‘if you’re representing, we’re sweet’. If you’re a good person, which they all are, I can’t be angry with them.’

    Manly chief executive Tony Mestrov, who was appointed in May this year, said there was no correllation between rumours of a divide in the club and recent poor results that have derailed the club’s season.

    ‘From our point of view, there is not a split,’ Mestrov said.

    ‘We are not where we want to be on the field at the moment but the players are saying they have moved on.

    ‘They had dinner [together] last week. We are just not playing well. That other stuff is over.’

    The Sea Eagles currently in 10th place on the NRL ladder, six competition points adrift of the eighth-placed Sydney Roosters.

    To miraculously reach the finals, Manly would need three huge wins and the Roosters and Raiders would have to lose all three of their remaining games by large margins.

  • 1 час, 58 минут назад 19.08.2022Sport
    Matildas coach says Sam Kerr is the ONLY choice to win the Ballon d’Or as best player in the world

    Sam Kerr has been hailed as the ‘complete’ player by Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson, who says his superstar captain fully deserves to claim the Ballon D’Or Feminin.

    Kerr has been nominated for the highest individual prize in women’s football after a stellar season with Chelsea, having won the league and cup double as well as the FA WSL golden boot.

    As well as Kerr, holder Alexia Putellas from Barcelona, three members of England’s Women’s Euro-winning team and five of Lyon’s Champions League-winning side are included among the 20 nominees for the prize.

    Putellas won the Best FIFA Women’s Player of the Year prize ahead of Kerr in January but Gustavsson says he wouldn’t be surprised if Kerr walks away with the gong when it is presented in October.

    ‘Her performances over the last two years have been fantastic, both for club and country,’ Gustavsson told reporters.

    ‘I’ve said it so many times, sorry to say it again, but she gets so much credit for her goal scoring but I don’t think she gets enough credit for her defensive actions and the way she works for the team.

    ‘Just look at club and country how hard she works and off the ball as well. To have one of the world’s best goalscorers commit to defend the way she does and then her leadership skills as well and her winning mentality makes her complete as a player.

    ‘It doesn’t mean she can’t get better because I know how hard she works every day to get better but in my opinion she’s been ready for that award for a long time.’

    In the week since the Aussie star’s nomination for the Ballon d’Or, Kerr has impressed yet again with a highlight-reel strike on Thursday for her club Chelsea in the Women’s International Champions Cup.

    In an outrageous show of skill, Kerr latched onto a perfectly placed pass and chipped the Lyon keeper to put her team ahead in Portland.

    It is the kind of performance that is almost becoming routine for Australia’s all-time leading goal scorer.

    On Thursday Kerr was named in Gustavsson’s 23-player squad for friendlies against Olympic champions Canada in Brisbane and Sydney next month.

    The 28-year-old is one of several key players back in Australia’s squad after being rested for June’s friendlies against Spain and Portugal along with experienced names such as Steph Catley, Caitlin Foord and Alanna Kennedy.

    Overseas-based Matildas are expected to travel from their clubs in Europe and the United States later this month ahead of the two clashes with Canada on September 3 and 6.

  • 1 час, 58 минут назад 19.08.2022Sport
    US Open champ Raducanu stutters before title defense, losing to world No.7 Jessica Pegula

    Emma Raducanu’s preparation for her US Open title defense has stuttered after a 7-5, 6-4 third round loss to Jessica Pegula at the Cincinnati Masters.

    In the first meeting between Raducanu and Pegula, the latter was far too strong.

    In disposing of the current US Open champ, Pegula proceeds to the quarter finals where she will face France’s Caroline Garcia.

    Critically, the American broke Raducanu’s serve with scores tied at 5-5 in the first set. The Buffalo native went on to close out the first and built on her performance in the second and final set.

    Pegula broke the Briton in her second service game of the final set before holding her serve throughout to cruise to victory.

    Raducanu came into Thursday night with momentum after already accounting for 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams and former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka.

    The 19-year-old defeated Williams 6-4, 6-0 in the round of 64 before disposing of Azarenka 6-0, 6-2 in the following round.

    Notwithstanding the result, Raducanu will arrive at Flushing Meadows with plenty of hype around her as defending champion.

    Undoubtedly, the Brit will look to draw upon her last visit to the US Open as inspiration.

    Raducanu entered the 2021 US Open draw as a qualifier before sensationally failing to drop a set until the semi-finals.

    The Canadian-born teenager went on to advance to the final, before defeating Leyleh Fernandez 6-4, 6-3.

    In doing so, she became the first-ever qualifier to win a Grand Slam in the Open era.

    The latest iteration of the Open will likely be more challenging for Raducanu, who is yet beat a top-10 player in the world.

    To repeat the feat, she’ll likely need to create history one more time.

  • 1 час, 58 минут назад 19.08.2022Sport
    Mystery as 10-year veteran is sacked by Brisbane Roar in bizarre 25-word press release

    Brisbane Roar have sacked veteran defender Corey Brown – and are refusing to say what’s behind the shock decision.

    The Roar released a bizarre 25-word statement on Thursday confirming the 28-year-old has departed the A-League club, effective immediately.

    ‘Brisbane Roar FC wishes to advise of the termination of the contract of defender Corey Brown,’ the statement read.

    ‘The club wishes him well for his future endeavours.’

    The shock development has been slammed by Professional Footballers Australia (PFA), which believes Brown has been treated appallingly.

    The PFA believes the statement from the Roar is ‘misleading and bizarre’, saying Brown’s contract still stands and he has started legal proceedings.

    ‘As the club is aware, Corey has initiated proceedings to dispute Brisbane Roar’s termination of his contract,’ PFA co-chief executive Beau Busch said in a statement.

    ‘As a consequence of this legal action, Corey’s contract remains on foot until a final determination is made. This is something the club, deliberately or otherwise, is failing to understand.

    ‘As the club continues to operate well below the expected standards of a professional football club, the PFA’s primary focus remains on protecting Corey’s well-being – something the club seems to have little regard for.’

    Brown has made over 150 appearances across two stints with the Roar dating back to 2011.

    It is understood the matter is set to go before Football Australia’s national dispute resolution chamber.

    The Roar and legal disputes with former players and coaches seem to go hand in hand.

    Last year, the Roar were ordered to cough up an insurance payout of nearly $370,000 to former Socceroo Brett Holman after a court ruled a payment received following a career-ending knee injury should have gone to the player and not the club.

    In 2020, FIFA’s dispute resolution chamber upheld Robbie Fowler’s claim he was wrongfully dismissed by the club as head coach in June 2020, leading to a reported six-figure payout in favour of the Liverpool great.

    Daily Mail Australia has reached out to Brisbane Roar for comment.

  • Загрузить еще
The Fed’s global problem
The Federal Reserve’s efforts to fight inflation threaten to send the U.S. economy into a recession. They could also spark…
Biden enters the Always Be Closing phase of his first term
Somehow, someway, Joe Biden is back in the game. After enduring a brutal year dominated by economic angst, legislative setbacks…

Sport Erling Haaland is ready for his next step up in Pep's Manchester City team, says Fjortoft