Real Madrid set on Erling Braut Haaland
The 19-year-old Norwegian striker is shining at Red Bull Salzburg and his profile fits perfectly into the strategy of Los Blancos as per Rodrygo, Vinicius, Kubo...
Real Madrid remain firm in their policy of keeping their ears to the ground listening for the murmers of football's future stars. One of those currently making the right noises is Erling Braut Haaland, the 19-year-old Norwegian forward at Austrian club Red Bull Salzburg.
Erling fits the Real Madrid model
Standing at an imposing 1.94 metres, the youngster is going through an impressive spell: he has scored 18 goals in 11 official matches this season. Among them, a hat-trick against Genk in the Champions League opener, in which he only played 70 minutes. That was followed by another goal at Anfield against the European Champions, just moments after coming on when initially being benched due to illness.
Los Blancos' strategy of targeting youth (along with a sprinkling of seasoned pros) has not changed in recent years, and already making their mark are the likes of Valverde, Vinicius and Rodrygo. Others on the books but going through their development elsewhere are Ødegaard, Kubo and Lunin, all still considered stars of the future at the Bernabéu.
In this plan, Haaland fits like a glove. His transfer price is not yet into the stratosphere (Salzburg paid €5m for him in 2018 and the website Transfermarkt puts his current value at around €12m), but his talent is not in question. In his homeland, there are discussions, without complete agreement, as to whom he is most similar to. Some say Van Basten, while others opt for a more modern reference, Ibrahimovic. Neither are bad reference points.
Excitement is building over in Norway, and there are reminders of when compatriot Ødegaard (only one year older than him) burst onto the scene, although at a younger age. Haaland's rise has been, literally, spectacular. In the last four years he has seen a growth spurt of more than twenty centimetres, and that could still increase a little more. His father recently talked of him following the example of one of the most prolific goalscorers of all time in Cristiano Ronaldo, including his diet.
Competition is United
This left-footed tank was actually born in Leeds, England, at the time his his father, Alf-Inge, was playing in the Premier League. His three goals against Genk broke the record set by Andrei Shevchenko for the youngest player to score Champions League hat-trick, beating him by two years (the Ukrainian legend was 21). His goal against Liverpool, two weeks later, was scored after being on field for just four minutes.
Haaland's future is being guided by the experience already in the family, but they are being advised by a heavyweight agent, the Italian Mino Raiola, who also represents Paul Pogba among others. The Scandinavian prospect refused a move to Juventus before joining Salzburg and next summer, if Ole Gunnar Solksjaer is still on the Old Trafford bench, he could very well be a major target for Manchester United.
The club has shown an interest in the player and the Norwegian coach knows him better than anyone after managing him at Molde, giving him a chance to shine at just 16 years of age.
"He's so good that we're going to have to keep him hidden," Solskjaer joked back then. And patience was needed with the enthusiatic wonderkid after he was booked just 65 seconds into his debut.
Madrid's goals of the future
Real Madrid has the name of Haaland firmly on their list, despite already having invested in Luka Jovic in the summer, (22 in December). Karim Benzema will also celebrate a birthday this December but is a decade older than his Serbian teammate. The player position is less important for the Spanish giants in terms of this policy, it is more about them fulfilling the other criteria and the club getting a foot in front of their main rivals around Europe.
This is why it did not matter that their Brazilian starlets, Vinicius and Rodrygo, played in a similar position, nor that Ødegaard and Kubo are alike in many ways. Erling Haaland is seen as the goals of the future.