Erling Haaland’s landing in Manchester City the last summer was met with equivalent proportions of excitement and curiosity.
The Norwegian forward had already established himself as one of the best goal scorers in European football at the age of 22 while playing for Red Bull Salzburg and Borussia Dortmund for two seasons.
However, he was making the move to a team that already had a lot of attacking talent and a league where big-name signings have come and gone without making an impact.
During his first ten months at Man City, Haaland has performed beyond the expectations of some of his most ardent admirers in the Premier League.
According to Otto Addo, the former Ghana manager who mentors young players at Dortmund,
“I didn’t expect him to break the records in the first season, to be honest, but I knew that he would fit in – that the team, the coach, the environment would take him to a higher level,” Otto Addo, the former Ghana manager who mentors young players at Dortmund, told CNN Sport.
In 47 games this season, Haaland has scored 51 goals for the club: Thirty-five in the Premier League, twelve in the Champions League, three in the FA Cup, and one in the League Cup.
In the history of English football, only Dixie Dean has scored more goals in a single top-flight season, with 63 in the 1927/28 season.
Haaland’s Premier League total, which includes four hat-tricks, surpasses the previous record held by Alan Shearer and Andy Cole together for a single season.
At a time when Premier League teams played 42 games instead of the current 38, Shearer and Cole scored 34 goals; Haaland still has four games left to add to his record.
Haaland has had an immediate impact at Manchester City, thanks to his strong partnership with midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, who is perhaps the best passer of the ball in European football.
In any case, De Bruyne’s extremely careful passing hasn’t been the sole justification behind his prosperity, nor the greatness of partners Jack Grealish, Rodri, or Bernardo Silva, to give some examples. Otto Addo says that since joining the Premier League, Haaland has improved his game to devastating effect, increasing his speed, power, and deadly finishing.
“I think he’s learned to be patient, to wait for the situation in the box and to take the right runs inside the box,” Addo says.
“Even though there were games where you didn’t see him too much on the ball, you could see that he was always ready. Even if it’s in the last minute, he’s always ready to score, always ready to make the right run in the right situation.”
Otto Addo, a former Dortmund player and Ghanaian international, supervises the development of the Bundesliga club’s talented group of young players. He believes Haaland became a more complete player in Germany, scoring a more noteworthy number of right-footed and headed goals, as well as working on his development off the ball in defense and attack.
The pair have kept in touch with one another occasionally over the last year and Haaland gave gifts to a portion of his former coaches after Dortmund and City played each other in the Champions League earlier this season.
“As a human being, I’m happy for him,” says Addo. “He has the mindset, he has the ability to score, to run, to have the right positions, to be hungry. If he keeps this hunger, which I guess he will, then surely, he will be the best striker ever.”
Addo reviews times when Haaland would score a few goals in a game for Dortmund, just to be angry with the coach when he was subbed off.
“This is the mentality you wish on every player – that he’s never satisfied, that he doesn’t relax, he doesn’t feel comfortable even though he scores a lot of goals,” says Addo. “He always wants more.”
According to data provided by The Analyst, a component of Stats Perform, eleven of Haaland’s 35 league goals have come from inside the six-yard box this season, when he is inside the penalty area.
Scoring goals has forever been at the core of Haaland’s down, since he was a little fellow playing in Bryne – a town of around 12,000 individuals on the southwestern tip of Norway.
He moved from Bryne to Molde FK at the age of 16, where he played professional Norwegian football under the direction of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a former manager of Manchester United; He made a name for himself with Salzburg, Dortmund, and now Man City from that point on.
“Erling had an incredible journey in the sense that he has taken to the next level perfectly,” Alf Ingve Berntsen, who coached Haaland for eight and a half years as a youth player at Bryne, tolr CNN Sport. “In a way, it’s natural for him just to keep doing what he has always done.”
Berntsen makes it a point to watch every Haaland match, as long as they don’t clash with the Liverpool schedule. Watching the powerful forward, who is now six feet four and reportedly weighs 12 kilograms more than he did 15 months ago, exhibit the same qualities as when he was a young kind is something new to him.
“In practice, just like now, he scored a lot of goals. He smiled a lot and trained a lot, so in a funny way, it’s quite like now,” says Berntsen.
“If you see the matches now, many of his movements are familiar … he has quite the same playing style as before. The main thing with Erling was he scored a lot of goals and was funny and loveable guy.”
Haaland, like his father, Alf Inge, a former defender and midfielder who also played for Nottingham Forest and Leeds, made the move to Man City. Gry Marita Braut, his mother, was a Norwegian heptathlon champion.
Erling’s father became very important when he moved from Bryne to Molde. He had to teach Erling how to get a new job, how to be accepted in the world, and how to be a professional.
Grealish has referred to Haaland as “the best professional I have ever seen” when it comes to diet, treatment, and recovery, and Manchester City midfielder lkay Gündoan has stated that he is the first player to arrive at the training pitch.
At Dortmund, Otto Addo says that Haaland had his own personal trainer to help with physical conditioning, explaining how “even if he’s off the pitch, he does a lot on his body.”
His dedication has already reaped rewards as he was named the Football Writers’ Association’s Footballer of the Year on Friday with 82% of the votes – the biggest winning margin in the Premier League era.
More goals, records, and accolades are likely to be a mainstay of Haaland’s career if he is able to stay healthy.
“He’s still young and he will improve even more,” says Addo. “He will be the best player on this planet one day. He’s very close now – maybe the best player already.”