April 23, 2021

Inside story of Haaland’s rise from clumsy teen prospect to Europe’s most wanted

3 min read

Erling Haaland’s rise from Molde hopeful to Champions League stardom shows no signs of slowing as Europe’s biggest clubs scramble over a potential summer transfer – but not many saw it coming.

Norway youth coach Gunnar Halle, who remains a crucial part of the national team set-up, worked alongside coach Erland Johnsen during Haaland’s first steps onto the international scene.

The exuberant forward lined up 56 times in total for the development sides before making his senior bow, scoring 36 goals despite an awkward spell of one strike in 17 outings for the Under 16s.

Although his goalscoring desire has always been present, Halle has been left pleasantly surprised by the rapid rise of the striker he helped nurture at a young age.

Erling Braut Haland (in front) of Molde FK during the UEFA Europa League play-offs first leg match between FC Zenit Saint Petersburg and Molde FK on August 23, 2018
Erling Haaland got his big break under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Molde
(Image: Getty Images)

Speaking exclusively to Daily Star Sport, the former Leeds, Bradford and Wolves defender said: “He wasn’t like he is now when he was 14 or 15.”

Before adding: “You could see he was a good player but not… I mean Martin Odegaard who was previously in that age group was more mature and you could see that he was different.

“You could see that Erling would be a good player. Yes we could see that Erling was a good player, but we didn’t know then that he was going to progress so quick.

“When he was 16 and he played at the European Under 17 Championships against England, he was good but his arms and legs were all over the place so his body wasn’t really set.

Erling Braut Haland of Norway looks dejected during the 2019 UEFA Under21 European Championship Qualifier match between U21 Germany and U21 Norway at Audi Sportpark on October 12, 2018 in Ingolstadt, Germany.
Erling Haaland made 56 appearances for Norway youth sides scoring 36 goals
(Image: Getty Images)
Gunnar Halle, Manager of Norway during the UEFA European Under-17 Championship Between Norway and England at Pirelli Stadium on May 13, 2018 in Burton-upon-Trent, England.
Gunnar Halle helped nurture a young Erling Haaland with Norway’s youth sides
(Image: Getty Images)

“But the way he’s scoring goals, he always wanted to score goals, and he’s been improving all the way. But I don’t think that anybody would’ve said when he was 15 that he would be where he is now.”

Halle himself had a fine run with Norway in making 64 appearances between 1987 and 1999, playing alongside Alf-Inge Haaland at Leeds and coming up against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer of Manchester United.

The 55-year-old took the time to praise his former international team-mate for the work he did with Erling at Molde, as well as the following steps the player has made in his career.

He added: “When he went from his hometown club to Molde and the way that Ole Gunnar was working with him went really well and he needed that time in the Norwegian league.

Erling Braut Haland of Salzburg during the tipico Bundesliga match between Rapid Wien and RB Salzburg at Allianz Stadion on February 24, 2019 in Vienna, Austria
Erling Haaland caught the eye of Europe’s elite while shining for Red Bull Salzburg
(Image: Getty Images)

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“Obviously when he went to Salzburg. and it’s easy to see afterwards, I think the steps he has been taking have been really good for his development.

“He did well at Molde and took to that level, he went to Austria and took to that level – he’s obviously now in Germany and he’s taken to that level.

“I think if he moved somewhere more difficult too early, then things could’ve been a little bit different. So I think that’s been a big part, taking the right steps at the beginning for his development.”

Halle believes that although Haaland has surprised even those who worked closely with him during the crucial years of his development, his calm and composed nature off the pitch has been key to his progress.

Erling Haaland of Borussia Dortmund celebrate a goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 match between Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla FC at Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund, Germany.
Erling Haaland’s rise could take him from Borussia Dortmund into the Premier League
(Image: Getty Images)

He continued: “I think that has surprised everybody. I think that maybe has come from him taking the steps with Molde, Salzburg and now Dortmund. One of his biggest strengths is that he is so calm.

“If he makes a mistake or whatever then he just forgets about it and move onto the next one.

“He’s always wanted to score goals, that’s his hunger, that’s the only thing he has always wanted to do! But now he is more of a team player as well, that’s improved a lot.”

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