Thursday, October 21, 2021

By chanelling his inner-Zlatan, Erling Haaland proved that he isn’t human

Where do you start with Erling Haaland?

After entering the consciousness of football supporters across Europe with his exploits at Red Bull Salzburg, Haaland has positioned himself as the hottest commodity for the continent’s super clubs.

Since the start of the 2019-20 season, the Norway international has recorded 96 strikes in 89 matches at club level and has averaged over a goal a game in the Champions League.

No wonder he’s nicknamed ‘The Terminator’. No wonder football writers are starting to run out of superlatives to describe him.

And let’s not forget, he’s still only 21 – an age where this writer was still struggling to change a duvet cover by themselves.

Any striker worth their salt doesn’t particularly care about how they acquire their goals – a great scorer of goals doesn’t necessarily make somebody a scorer of great goals after all.

But, during Borussia Dortmund’s 4-2 win over Union Berlin, Haaland showed that he deserves both monikers.

His first goal was bread and butter for a striker of his ilk, thundering home a header after some good work on the wing by Donyell Malen.

His second goal was enough to recall another Scandinavian striker at their peak – a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

After cruising through most of the game, Dortmund belatedly found themselves under some pressure after Union Berlin pulled the score back to 3-2.

Chasing a long pass by Mats Hummels, Haaland was engaged in a foot race with defender Robin Knoche that precluded the chance to take a valuable touch.

His solution? After spotting goalkeeper Andreas Luthe straying from his line, Haaland lobbed him with a karate kick from the sort of horizontal position you’d normally associate with a teenager smoking a herbal cigarette while listening to some lo-fi hip-hop beats.

It all adds to the growing theory that Haaland simply isn’t human. That he was assembled in some top-secret laboratory in Oslo in an experiment to create the perfect striker.

No warm-blooded mammal should possess his combination of composure and relentlessness at such an early age. Any plans those scientists for their robot to blend into human society are being undermined by the realisation that Haaland is simply too good.

The scramble for his services next summer is going to be incredibly unbecoming, as Europe’s self-styled elite debase themselves for the elixir of guaranteed goals.

But, when you see Haaland score the kind of goal that Ibrahimovic built a career on, you know that he’ll be worth it.

Can you name the 32 players to score 25+ goals in the Champions League?

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