The Premier League’s latest big signing is a 6ft 4in “Viking” who broke a long jump world record when he was just five years old.
Erling Braut Haaland – a Norwegian who was born in Leeds – is just 21 but has talent so big that Manchester City have agreed to buy him for £51million and pay him £385,000 a week. Some of his millions of social media followers in Germany nicknamed him The Terminator because of his goalscoring feats. And despite the healthy diet expected of footballers, he admits that he loves kebabs and pizza.
Young Erling leapt 1.63m in January 2006 to claim his place in history for the longest standing long jump. Now, he leaves the opposition standing.
In a 2020 game for his current club Borussia Dortmund, a TV station clocked him sprinting 60m in just 6.64 seconds, a time which would have put him in the World Championship athletics indoor final in 2018. It is a staggering feat, as the world record by US athlete Christian Coleman stands at 6.34 seconds.
But his athletic prowess is in the genes; Haaland comes from a great sporting family. His mum Gry Marita used to be national champion in heptathlon in Norway. His dad Alf-Inge Haaland played for Nottingham Forest, Leeds United and Man City, where he had a fierce rivalry with Man United’s Roy Keane, which led to a blood-curdling knee-high tackle on Alf-Inge’s right knee which left him badly injured in 2001.
Erling’s maternal cousins Albert Tjaland and Jonatan Braut Brunes play for Norwegian clubs Bryne and IK Start. And Jonatan’s sister Emma Braut Brunes plays as a defender for Norwegian side Klepp’s women’s team. Erling returned to his native Norway after spending the first three years of his life in Leeds, where he was born while his dad, now his agent, was playing for Leeds United.
He once said that his ambition was to “play in the Premier League for Leeds” like his father. How the Elland Road faithful would love to see that now. He could have played for England and posed happily in an England top alongside his big brother Astor and sister Gabi.
Erling’s wages at City will put him on a par with their highest earner – and team chiefs believe the transfer fee will prove to be a bargain after he scored 61 goals in 66 games for German side Dortmund.
How many goals will Erling Haaland score next season? Have your say in the comments!
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He might be partial to fast food but his personal chef makes sure he eats a healthy diet and gets through a whopping 4,000 calories a day. Though he tries to adhere to the strict diet regime followed by Man United legend Cristiano Ronaldo, he revealed recently that kebab was his favourite food, though only a rare treat.
“I really like kebab. I love it,” he said. “That doesn’t mean I eat it all the time. I eat it a couple of times a year in my hometown. I almost never eat it, but it’s still my favourite food.” His countryman Josh King has joked about his eating habits.
“He’s just a freak,” he told former footballer Ben Foster’s YouTube channel. “I’ve never ever seen anyone eat as much as he does. He’s bulking up. Yeah, he’s shredded but I don’t know, he just eats like a bear. He’s such a nice guy.”
That view was confirmed by one of Haaland’s first coaches, who spotted his talent at four years old back in Norway. He is adamant that his former protege will keep his feet on the ground, despite the big money move to the Etihad Stadium.
Alf Ingve Berntsen recalled: “He had a passion for football but many kids have that. He had what you in the UK call grit. He had something special and when he was on the pitch he was totally focused on football.”
Erling was nicknamed “Manchild” at his first club because he was so big for his age. He fancied himself as a rapper early on his career, when his rap name was Flow Kingz. But he has managed to avoid the pitfalls of football stardom so far. He is single after reportedly splitting with his girlfriend when he left Norway to move to Germany as a teenager.
At the time he joked to Norwegian outlet Dagblade: “I sleep with the five balls for each hat-trick I have scored. I lie in bed and I feel good with them. I look at them every day. They are my girlfriends.” The young star is also thoughtful, telling his online followers during lockdown: “If you’re feeling extra anxious these days, you are not alone.
“In addition to taking care of our bodies, we also have to take care of our mind. We’re here to help each other move through this. Stay strong and healthy.” Erling is powerfully-built and 6ft 4in tall. His height, power and athleticism helped him make his first team debut at 15 years old.
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He first made international headlines at the Under-20 World Cup in May 2019 by scoring an incredible nine goals – a hat-trick of hat-tricks – as Norway’s youngsters thumped Honduras 12-0. It means he holds the record as the player with the most goals in a single match in that competition.
Erling reached 10 goals in four Champions League games, faster than anyone in the competition’s history. His ninth and 10th Champions League goals of the season were also a record for a footballer playing their first season in Europe’s premier competition.
And he became the youngest player to score a Champions League hat-trick before half-time, when he netted three times in RB Salzburg’s 6-2 win over Genk earlier this season.
Erling is from Bryne, a small town of around 12,000 people in the south west of Norway where his dad began his career and where the family returned in 2003. “The Germans used to call him a machine,” said former Norwegian player Jan Age Fjortoft.
“I don’t think you should call a human being a machine but he is as close as you get. Haaland is a tall, blond Norwegian as you would imagine a Viking coming to the UK thousands of years ago. But he is peaceful… he is a great goal-getter.”