Just 19 years old and at the start of his career - yet so mature and level-headed, both on and off the pitch. It's hard to believe that Erling Haaland has been in Dortmund for just six months. He may seem shy and reserved, but he's registering every single detail - both in conversation and in action for the Black & Yellows. He always seems to be in the right place, and he always rises to the challenge in the most spectacular way possible.
The video filmed by Erik Sandberg, Erik Botheim and Erling Haaland on a gloriously sunny afternoon in the summer of 2016 would have almost certainly ended up lost in the depths of YouTube if it weren't for the three young men making a name for themselves in an entirely different field. Almost four years later, the DIY music video of the ''Flow Kingz'' performing ''Kygo Jo'' has become an online hit, notching up over 4.5 million views worldwide.
From a musical perspective, Sandberg and Botheim are clearly the driving force of the trio. The third man's singing voice sounds like the cawing of a crow, but it's undoubtedly due to Erling Haaland that the performance has become a sensation online. After Haaland's transfer to Borussia Dortmund, the video started doing the rounds on the internet. It even hit the headlines of a few newspapers. Certain commentators derided the ''follies of youth'', labelling the video ''an embarrassment'', but many fans had a very different view of things. The comments on YouTube are full of praise for Haaland. ''Erling only became a footballer to promote this brilliant song,'' writes one user, while another tells a story in three acts: ''I play Kygo Jo at full volume / My neighbour calls the police / The police arrive and arrest my neighbour.''
Not long after Haaland and his friends tried their hand at hip-hop, the blonde-haired Norwegian first attracted the attention of BVB scouts after stand-out performances at a youth tournament. The scouting team decided to keep a close eye on the youngster, but many other top clubs had the same idea - especially after the powerful forward managed to pin down a starting place in Norwegian top-flight club Molde FK's first team at just 17 years of age. So it was that on 1 July 2018, representatives of almost all of Europe's leading clubs were there in the stands of SK Brann's stadium in Bergen to watch Erling Haaland in action. And they weren't disappointed. In a 61-minute appearance, the young centre-forward scored all four of his team's goals as they stormed to a 4-0 win away to the league leaders. There could be no more doubts that the young man's future belonged to football and not pop music. Perhaps he would end up where his father, Alf-Inge, known as ''Alfie'', had carved out a living: England, where Haaland senior spent ten years playing for Nottingham Forest, Manchester City and Leeds United before moving back to Norway in 2003.
During his time in the small city of Molde, located on Norway's west coast, Erling Haaland didn't just hone the unique footballing talent that first went noticed at five years of age; he also grew into the towering man he is today. An incredible late growth spurt saw Haaland shoot up a full 17 cm, and the Norwegian now leaves most of his markers in his shadow with his imposing stature. The talented but slender youngster has become a powerful athlete capable of going toe-to-toe with the most physical defenders in the game.
Power, agility, acceleration
Haaland now stands at 1.94 metres tall, but in person, his size doesn't come across as intimidating. His physical presence isn't akin to that of an immovable object. The young man looks like he needs more time to fully grow into his frame, which is still on the lanky side. His fitness coaches are no doubt well aware of this when drawing up a personal fitness plan. On the one hand, they want to make sure he gains strength, but on the other, they don't want any acceleration or agility to be lost in the process.
The Austrian goalkeeper Samuel Sahin-Radlinger was between the sticks for SK Brann on the day Haaland scored four goals against them. Sahin-Radlinger told the media outlet Spox that he thought the 17-year-old came across as arrogant. But perhaps it was just self-confidence. It's often a very fine line between the two after all. In any case, no-one at BVB has found the Norwegian arrogant. Self-confident? Certainly. More than anything else, people at the club have said it's his ambition that stands out as his defining feature. Haaland isn't a loud person, he doesn't vie to be the centre of attention. But he isn't shy either. He comes across as calm and pleasantly laid-back. Though that can change very quickly in certain circumstances - when he makes a mistake in a warm-up drill, when he misses a shot on goal or, even worse, when his team loses a training game. Then his mood can turn seriously sour. That being said, the smallest of things can see him break into jubilant celebration, for example when he scores a good goal when taking shots in the warm-up. Haaland is the type to lose himself in the emotion of the moment; it doesn't matter if he's preparing for a game, out there during those 90 minutes or - away from the pitch - in conversation. Constant alertness is one of his defining characteristics.
Haaland developed an advanced understanding of football at a very young age. His gift for reading the game has come to the fore on countless occasions during his time in Dortmund. Haaland is constantly processing events out on the pitch, and not just when his team are attacking. Take the match in Mönchengladbach back in March for example. As the opposition prepare to take a corner, the BVB centre-forward positions himself as the last defender on the line. Lars Stindl gets an effort on goal, and the ball rolls through the Norwegian's legs before nestling in the back of the net. Haaland was unfairly singled out for ridicule by many commentators, but a replay of the scene tells a different story, showing a player accurately predicting where the ball is going to end up and doing all he can to get in the right position. His failure to prevent the goal was purely down to misfortune.
His goal against 1. FC Cologne back in January is spectacular for the same reason. At first glance his fourth goal for BVB was your typical poacher's effort: Cologne goalkeeper Timo Horn can't keep his hands on the ball, and Haaland is there to fire home the rebound. But take a closer look and you'll notice that Haaland moved to the right area before there was any indication that the ball would end up there. He always seems to be one step ahead of events on the pitch.
Haaland is just a few days shy of his 20th birthday, but legends are already being told about him. They say that as a five-year-old, in his debut match for childhood club Bryne FK, his first two touches of the ball led to a goal. Or that at 12 years of age, he already led the lifestyle of an elite athlete. These stories may or may not be true, but there is one legend about which there can be no doubts: Haaland scored a hat-trick on his debut for BVB, after coming on as a substitute, with the Black & Yellows 3-1 down on the scoreboard. Such a stratospheric rise could easily lead to an inflated sense of ego, but that certainly doesn't seem to be the case for Haaland. The youngster is accessible to everyone at any time. He goes about his business with a smile and a typically Scandinavian sense of courtesy. He isn't fazed by media duties, seeing them as a welcome challenge, and often comes across as quick-witted and bright, perhaps even overconfident. The day after the 2-1 win over Paris St. Germain he sat down with a reporter from the New York Times. ''Do you feel like a sensation?'' asked the journalist. ''No,'' responded Haaland with a smile, ''like a zensation,'' - a reference to his Buddha celebration after scoring the day before.
It's easy to imagine how happy Haaland must have felt at that moment in time, how at peace he must have been with the decisions he'd made in life. He received countless offers, and in the end he opted for Borussia Dortmund, because he had been promised regular playing time, because he had seen 19-year-olds like Achraf Hakimi and Jadon Sancho establish themselves in the starting line-up and a 17-year-old like Giovanni Reyna given a chance to prove himself. And now he's sitting here being interviewed by a New York Times reporter, the day after he and his teenage colleagues helped defeat the all-star line-up of PSG in the Champions League. No better time to crack a joke.
But that wasn't the end of the story. The second leg ended 2-0 in favour of PSG, and Neymar poured salt on the wounds by mocking the Buddha celebration. Erling Haaland wasn't exactly over the moon. To put it mildly, he was really annoyed about it. But it wasn't all bad; just a couple of months ago it wouldn't have occurred to Neymar to make fun of Haaland. He probably wouldn't have even recognised him. His mocking can almost be seen as a tribute of sorts. Erling Haaland has already achieved so much at BVB. And we're only just getting started.
Erling Haaland in numbers
- Erling Haaland made a record-breaking start to life in the Bundesliga: the Norwegian is the only player to ever score nine goals in his first six appearances in the league.
- These nine goals came from just 19 shots on goal. His first seven came with his left foot, and the next two came with his right.
- The young Norwegian is the only BVB player in history to score on his debut in the Bundesliga, the DFB Cup and the UEFA Champions League. He scored 12 goals in his first 11 matches for the club.
- Haaland is the seventh player in Bundesliga history to score a hat-trick on his debut, but he's the first to come off the bench and do it (the striker came on in the 56th minute of the 5-3 win in Augsburg with BVB 3-1 down on the scoreboard).