New Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland scored 29 goals in 27 competitive appearances for Red Bull Salzburg. - © KRUGFOTO/AFP via Getty Images
New Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland scored 29 goals in 27 competitive appearances for Red Bull Salzburg. - © KRUGFOTO/AFP via Getty Images

Erling Haaland: Who is the new Borussia Dortmund striker drawing comparisons with Zlatan Ibrahimovic?

He’s been likened to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and lauded by Jürgen Klopp - now Erling Haaland is coming to a Bundesliga pitch near you after joining Borussia Dortmund from Red Bull Salzburg. puts the goal-laden young career of one of European football’s hottest prospects under the microscope…

Erling Braut Haaland

Age: 19
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Position: Striker
Country: Norway (two caps)

Key stats

Haaland has football in his blood. His father and agent, Alf-Inge, played as a midfielder in the English Premier League for Nottingham Forest, Leeds United and Manchester City, as well as at the 1994 FIFA World Cup for Norway, before retiring through injury in 2003.

Haaland Jnr. inherited his Dad's tenacious streak, not to mention the tall gene. More recently, the 6'4" striker has added layers of lean muscle to his athletic frame. While he hasn't always been able to bench-press a small hatchback, a sizeable growth spurt in his teens meant he often played alongside teammates up to two years older at Norwegian club Bryne. He scored 18 goals in 14 appearances for the reserves, before making his competitive debut in Norway’s second tier at just 15.

Less than a year - and 16 first-team appearances - later, Haaland moved to Molde, where he worked under current Manchester United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. A debut goal against Volda in the Norwegian Cup set the tone for a 20-goal return spread over 50 matches, including four in a blistering 18-minute spell against Brann.

He finished as Molde’s 16-goal top scorer in all competitions and claimed the Eliteserien Breakthrough of the Year prize in 2018. It was only a matter of time before the player nicknamed 'manchild' outgrew a country best known in international sporting circles for its cross-country skiers.

Haaland got his first taste of European club football whilst playing for Molde in the 2018/19 UEFA Europa League. - imago

Haaland duly journeyed some 1400 miles to join Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg, where he gave his career some serious wings. He opened his account at the second time of asking against LASK, before embarking on a goal-scoring spree that included four hat-tricks between July and November 2019 alone. One fell on his UEFA Champions League debut against Genk, while a follow-up effort at the Anfield home of reigning champions Liverpool propelled the Norwegian frontman into the competition’s storied annals as the first player to score with each of his first four efforts on goal.

Haaland’s prolific form has translated onto the international stage. He plundered 30 goals in 45 appearances for the various Norway youth teams, winning the 2019 FIFA U20 World Cup’s Golden Boot after netting nine of his country’s dozen goals in their 12-0 rout of Honduras. The teenaged sharpshooter won his first senior cap against Malta in September 2019, while his overall rating on EA Sports' FIFA 20 is 78 with a potential of 89.

Plays a bit like: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Haaland has described himself as "a big poacher who likes to score goals", but it’s comparisons with childhood hero Ibrahimovic that are closest to the mark. As well as his nose for goal, Haaland’s height, frame, and apex-predator confidence levels are straight out of the Zlatan handbook.

"You can take a lot of things from Zlatan, especially the mental aspects," he told the Red Bull Salzburg website. "He's shown at every club that he's the best. That really impresses me. That's also my aim!"

Did you know?

Had he not shared Ibrahimovic's headstrong mindset, Haaland might have been playing Bundesliga football a lot earlier. According to reports, Hoffenheim offered him a trial at 16 with the prospect of joining their state-of-art academy, but he wanted first-team football there and then, and opted for Molde instead.

Ibrahimovic famously turned down the chance to move to Arsenal because then manager Arsene Wenger wanted the Sweden striker to try out first.

Haaland's idol, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, was still 19 when he left Swedish club Malmo for Dutch giants Ajax in summer 2001. - imago

What they're saying

"He's an ambitious, athletic and physical centre forward with a proven nose for goal. He should hopefully have a massive career ahead of him." - Dortmund sporting director, Michael Zorc

"He’s 19 years old, [an] exceptional player. Just a really big, big talent with a wonderful future, 100 per cent." - Liverpool head coach, Jürgen Klopp

"He often stayed longer with a group of other talented guys to keep training. They often played outside the match days in football cages. He only did it because he had an iron will to make it to the top. Still, he was a very funny boy, a guy who made others laugh with his unique humour in the locker room." - former Bryne coach, Alf Ingve Berntsen