The moment Haaland showed he’s about more than ‘just’ scoring goals

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It’s tempting to write this article as yet another open-mouthed ogle at Erling Haaland’s goalscoring record. We’ve done it plenty of times before, only for Haaland’s numbers to continue on an increasingly ridiculous trajectory. Then we have to do it all again.

On Saturday, Haaland scored the opener in Borussia Dortmund’s 4-0 victory over Freiburg to take his tally to 20 goals for the club he joined in January.

In the second half, Haaland added another to make it 21 goals in 23 appearances for BVB and four in three Bundesliga outings this season. The 20-year-old – Haaland’s age remains the most frightening statistic about him – now averages a goal every 80 minutes in a Dortmund shirt.

These are generational numbers; Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo numbers. But while Haaland continues to take to the elite levels of the professional game like a test-tube prodigy that has been genetically enhanced, he continues to hone his craft in front of our eyes, pushing against the outer reaches of his talent, sanding down any rough edges.

In stoppage time of Dortmund’s victory, Haaland found himself through on goal in acres of space as the hosts countered a late Freiburg corner. Haaland had the headlines in his sights; a hat-trick, another one-man destruction of an opposition, that goal average pushed closer to one every 75 minutes.

But the most explosive young goalscorer in world football didn’t shoot. As three Freiburg defenders and goalkeeper Florian Muller desperately tried to close in on Haaland and at least provide the facade of pressure, the Norway international chose not to put the ball into the back of the net – as he no doubt could have done quite easily – but instead roll the ball to the right and leave full-back Felix Passlack with a tap in to score his first Dortmund goal.

A simple piece of play, no doubt, but a pass that offered a significant glimpse into the maturing mentality of a young player who has so far stood out because of his singularity.

Haaland’s ruthless pursuit of goals, goals and more goals, combined with his aloof approach to media duties, has led to the perception in some quarters of a cold, robotic wunderkind who has found life all too easy so far.

In laying on a goal for a team-mate who is older in age but muss less advanced in terms of status – following on from a similar assist while on international duty with Norway – not only did Haaland show a welcome dose of empathy but also that his eyes are on an altogether bigger prize than personal accolades.

And if that continues, we really don’t know what to say to opposition defences that have to face Erling Haaland in the future – as if their job wasn’t already difficult enough.


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