The superlatives were still pouring in on Monday after Norway’s newest football star, Erling Braut Haaland, made his “extraordinary,” “crazy,” “incredible” weekend debut with his new club Borussia Dortmund. Not only did the 19-year-old rescue his team from possible defeat, he hit the field as a substitute and scored three goals within 20 minutes.
The so-called “hat trick” impressed new fans, fellow players and coaches in the presigious Bundesleague, along with the rest of the football world. “A dream debut,” trumpeted broadcasters and newspapers from those back home in Oslo to those farther afield including BBC Sport, The Guardian, Marca and CNN Football. They were all raving, from Europe, to the US to India.
“It was just incredible, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Haaland’s new, amazed coach at Dortmund, Lucien Favre, told Viasat. Commentators in Norway said there is no reason to believe it was just a fairy tale that won’t continue: “For Erling Braut Haaland, it was just a normal day on the job,” wrote Lars Tjærnås in Oslo-based newspaper Aftenposten. The tall blond Norwegian with the slicked-back hair has, after all, performed much the same in earlier matches.
Haaland, just 19 years old and from Jæren on Norway’s west coast, just signed with Borussia Dortmund a few weeks ago. He’d earlier been playing for Salzburg, along with Molde and Bryne in Norway, and has been on Norway’s national U20 squad (for youth under age 20).
A man with many hats
He impressed them as well, with Aftenposten noting on Sunday that Haaland (pronounced “hoe-land”) actually has performed no less than seven “hat tricks” in the last 18 months. The first came in July 2017 when he even scored all of Molde’s four goals in a match against Brann of Bergen that ended 4-0.
Last May he scored nine goals in a Norge U20 match against Honduras, and then he came to play for Red Bull Salzburg. Between August 10 and November 10 he nailed four hat tricks for Salzburg, allowing his team to win each time. Haaland was as hot as can be, and the scouts came running.
News broke just before New Year’s Eve that he’d turned down an offer from Manchester United and its Norwegian coach, Ole Gunnar Solskjær (who used to coach at Molde), and signed a four-and-a-half year contract with Dortmund instead. He said he’d spoken at length with the club, especially its manager Joachim Watzke, sports director Michael Zorc and coach Favre. “I got a good feeling from the start, that I wanted to play here in the fantastic Dortmund atmosphere before 80,000 spectators,” he told Dortmund’s own website.
News bureau NTB noted at New Year that Dortmund was in fourth place in the league, halfway through the season. That may change now. There are also three other Norwegians on the team who can help the young Haaland feel more at home: André Bergdølmo, Jan Derek Sørensen and Steinar Pedersen. German newspapers have reported that the talented teenager has a market value equivalent to NOK 600 million.
Prefers to let his legs do the talking
Haaland also told Dortmund’s website that he’d let his legs speak for him when he’d get a chance to play, after initially spending time at Dortmund’s training camp in Marbella, Spain right after New Year. They certainly spoke well at this debut.
Aftenposten noted that it was Solskjær who first guided Haaland into the bigger aspects of pro-football when he brought him to Molde from Bryne in Jæren. Then Solskjær was hired by Manchester United and Haaland moved on to Salzburg, where he thought he’d get the best playing time. After his sensational autumn there, he had his pick of several top European clubs, but opted for Dortmund as a good place to develop.
Norway’s national football team is also smiling at the prospect of getting both Haaland and the country’s other young star, Martin Ødegaard, on board. The Norwegians face Serbia at home in Oslo in just under three months and must win two matches this spring in order to qualify for the European Championships this summer. A Haaland hat trick would sure come in handy.
Meanwhile, in the midst of all the social media hype over Haaland this weekend, came this brief message from the star himself: “All good here in Dortmund.” Very good indeed.