Speculations about Erling Haaland’s future are already intensifying ahead of the transfer market in January, but how has the Borussia Dortmund forward performed this season?
Haaland has been linked to a number of major European clubs in recent years, including Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United, and appeared to be greeting Borussia Dortmund fans following their recent 3-0 win over Greuther Furth.
Dortmund say they won’t be going anywhere in January, but even if they stay past the end of the month, their agent, Mina Raiola, recently admitted there’s a “big chance” they’ll move in the summer when a clause £ 64 million termination of his contract is reportedly taking effect.
With 76 goals in 74 appearances for Dortmund since his transfer from Red Bull Salzburg in December 2019, it’s no wonder Haaland is in high demand. Here, we take a look at how he has performed this season.
Goal that flows despite the interruptions
Haaland has had to deal with injuries this season. A muscle problem forced him to miss three games in late September and he was sidelined for a longer period between October and November due to a hip flexor problem.
That hip injury was expected to keep him stationary for December as well, but instead he’s back in action earlier than expected.
Typically, he scored his first appearance in two months with a goal just seven minutes after his introduction from the bench, helping Borussia Dortmund beat Wolfsburg 3-1 on 27 November.
That goal brought him double figures in the Bundesliga this season and there have been five more in five games since then, bringing his aggregate score to 19 goals in just 15 appearances for Dortmund so far.
Haaland is consequently Dortmund’s top scorer and, despite losing much of the season through injury, only Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowksi (19) and Bayer Leverkusen’s Patrik Schick (16) have scored more goals this season in the Bundesliga.
Haaland could overtake that pair if he remains injury-free and continues to score with the same frequency. In fact, the 21-year-old averages one goal every 69 minutes in the Bundesliga, meaning his goal rate is the best since his arrival in Dortmund from Red Bull Salzburg two seasons ago.
Disappointingly for Dortmund, they lag behind Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich despite Haaland’s best efforts. Marco Rose’s team is in second place nine points behind their rivals. They would be nine points worse, however, without Haaland’s goals.
He missed him a lot during the Champions League group stage. Haaland was only able to start the first two games, meaning he was unavailable for crucial matches with Ajax and Sporting Lisbon when Dortmund collapsed to third in Group C, knocking them out of the Europa League.
Haaland now has to wait for another crack in the Champions League, be it in Dortmund or somewhere else.
Records continue to plummet for Haaland, who, at 21 years and six days old, became the youngest player in Bundesliga history to hit 50 goals in the competition last month. It also hit the benchmark in the fewest appearances – just 50.
Most impressive, however, is that Haaland, a scary talent ever since he burst onto the Red Bull Salzburg scene as a teenager, continues to improve.
“He has improved a lot since last season,” said Dortmund manager Rose earlier this month. “He has better times, finds good positions and is making the right decisions”.
The improvement in movement and decision making can be seen in her increased goal production, but it’s the positioning Rose mentioned that best explains how she has reached another level this season.
Put simply, Haaland is spending more time in areas of the pitch where he can hurt opponents. The Norwegian is obviously capable of inflicting damage almost anywhere, thanks to his extraordinary speed and strength, but it is in the opponent’s penalty area that he is most deadly.
This season, one of the biggest changes in his game is that he’s getting a lot more touches there. His average of 8.7 touches in the opponent’s area for 90 minutes increased from 7.1 for 90 minutes last year and 5.6 for 90 minutes in 2019/20.
His firing volume went in the same direction. This season in the Bundesliga, he has averaged 4.5 shots on target every 90 minutes, compared to 3.5 every 90 minutes last season. His average of 2.2 shots on target for 90 minutes is also a significant increase.
Haaland also provides more ammo to his teammates. In addition to scoring more, statistics show he is creating more chances than at any point in his Dortmund career. Significantly, his numbers for expected assists show that the possibilities are of higher quality too.
All the numbers indicate that a player finds new ways to improve, and this should be a scary prospect for those clubs that end up losing his signature.
What has been said about him this season?
Coach of Borussia Dortmund Marco Rose: “Almost every day he is confronted with some outrageous speculation, and the way Erling handles it as a young man is extraordinary, I think. All of us who work with him are used to it by now.
“He has improved a lot compared to last season. He has better times, finds good positions and is making the right decisions.”
Dortmund midfielder Emre Can: “Everyone knows Erl’s quality. He helps us a lot as a team. I think the team has more confidence when he’s on the pitch.”
from Dortmund Jude Bellingham: “I am here every week and I tell you how good he is. The only thing I can say more is that the player you see is not a fluke. He does not show up after a week on the couch, and go out and play. He makes socks every day to be a better forward. And he’s an even better guy than he is a forward. “
Bayern Munich Robert Lewandowski: “He is a great player. He has great potential, but he is still very young.
“In the future he certainly has the possibility of becoming the best striker in the world.
“It’s nice to have him in the Bundesliga, to have a young player here to compare [myself] to. I see his face; has the desire to score.
“He’s the player who can be the best. It’s not always easy when things go well. But he’s already scored a lot of goals and he’s very young.”
of Liverpool Virgil van Dijk: “Haaland is a special attacker, he is strong, he is fast. He has what it takes to make life as a defender very, very difficult.
“The first time was when he was at Salzburg and scored at Anfield. He was very fast, direct. A bit like Jamie Vardy plays, but Haaland is a bit stronger than Vardy.”