Erling Haaland has made such an impression during his time with Borussia Dortmund that he deserves to take home this year's Ballon d'Or. - © /
Erling Haaland has made such an impression during his time with Borussia Dortmund that he deserves to take home this year's Ballon d'Or. - © Lukas Schulze/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images
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Why Erling Haaland deserves to win the 2021 Ballon d'Or

The Ballon d’Or is back for 2021 after a one-year hiatus, and Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland's exploits make him a perfect dark horse candidate to win the award despite being one of the younger nominees.

Dortmund coach Marco Rose has, perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, said that he would choose the young Norwegian striker if he had a vote. When elaborating on what makes Haaland's chances so special, Rose noted that "if you see his experienced competitors who have more years of experience already, then it’s just beautiful to have such a young player at this level."

Since 2008, the Ballon d'Or winner has been named either Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, with the important exception of the 2018 winner, Luka Modric. Haaland wouldn't just be the first Norwegian winner of the Ballon d’Or but is the first to even be nominated. The only other BVB player to have earned the award was Matthias Sammer in 1996.

Despite his young age, Haaland has done more than enough to be a serious contender to be called the world's best player. He may not be the biggest name among the list of nominees, his club may not be champions, and he may not come from a country with the biggest footballing tradition, but the Dortmund striker contributes the goals, assists, and professional qualities that make him a model professional of the very highest level.

"What he does is extraordinary. He is nominated and deserves it," said Rose, and it's hard to find any way to argue.

Watch: Analysis - Goal-hungry Erling Haaland's scoring secrets

In his first full season in Dortmund, Haaland managed nearly a goal a game: 27 goals in 28 Bundesliga appearances. In all competitions, his tally reached 41 goals for the season - exactly a goal a game. Having just turned 21 in the summer, it's clear that he is the prime example of a naturally gifted goalscorer.

Last season, Haaland finished as the league's third top scorer, but ranked second in terms of minutes-per-goal (89). You could nearly set a watch to his goalscoring, given how consistent he was: Haaland never went more than two games without scoring.

The Norwegian sometimes seems as if it were his mission to underscore that such impressive numbers represent just the very beginning of his career. On Matchday 8, aged just 20 years and 123 days, Haaland scored four against Hertha Berlin, becoming the youngest player to score so many in a single Bundesliga match. He also made history by becoming the first U21 player to reach 40 career Bundesliga goals when he put a pair past Bayer Leverkusen.

Impressive as his record in front of goal is, it would be unfair to reduce Haaland's output to just his goals. While his main role is to put the ball in the back of the net, the striker also has an eye for setting up his teammates; 2020/21 saw Haaland rack up 12 assists, as well. That's four more than Real Madrid's Luka Modric notched in his Ballon d'Or-winning 2017/18 campaign.

Watch: Erling Haaland, magical skills and goals

Haaland isn't just appreciated for his on-pitch contributions. He's celebrated by his coach and teammates alike as being a great person and model professional, in addition to being a football phenom. Jude Bellingham, yet another of Dortmund's crop of excellent young players, was unequivocal when asked his opinion of his Norwegian teammate: "I stand here every week and tell you how great he is. The only thing more I can say is that the player that you see isn’t a fluke. He doesn’t just turn up after a week on the sun bed and go out and play."

Being a goal machine at such a young age isn't enough for Haaland, who is constantly seeking to better himself. "He works his socks off every day to be a better striker," Bellingham continued. "And he's an even better guy than he is a striker!"

All that hard work has translated not only into goals impressive for their quantity, but also for their undeniable quality. Anyone who has been paying attention to Haaland's exploits knows that so many of the goals he scores are the result of his own hard work and ingenuity to create (and then finish) goalscoring chances out of nothing.

His September Goal of the Month winning strike against Union Berlin perfectly encapsulates the outrageous technique and vision that powers Haaland's incredible goalscoring output.

Watch: Haaland's September Goal of the Month winner

While the award has, in recent years, gone to players who have won major continental or global trophies, there is some precedent for the Ballon d'Or going to young players who make an undeniable impact. If we rewind the clock 20 years, we would see the award going to a young striker who had supplied the goals to power his club to cup glory.

That young striker was Michael Owen, and his 24 goals were enough to convince the jury. With 17 more goals to his name in 2020/21, perhaps Haaland's taking home the award wouldn't be such a surprise after all.

Haaland has settled immediately in a new league; he's become an undeniable talisman and superstar for one of the most fervent set of supporters; he's scored incredible goals at an blistering rate; he's a leader in the dressing room; and he's a role model for younger players and fans. What more does a player have to do to be considered the greatest?

Haaland was crowned Golden Boy last year and stated that he now has his sights set on the Ballon d'Or. Even if this isn't the Norwegian's year, he's only 21 years old; it seems certain that it's just a matter of time before he does get his hand on that trophy.