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THE saga of where Erling Haaland will be playing his football is over.
Pep Guardiola’s side have triggered his £51million release clause, and reportedly agreed a deal worth a staggering £500,000-per-week for the towering centre-forward.
Haaland was born in Leeds to a sport-mad family.
His father, Alf-Inge famously played for Nottingham Forest, Leeds United and Manchester City, while his mum was a heptathlon champion in her homeland.
Erling was raised in the town of Bryne from the age of three, where he discovered his own sporting prowess.
This is the making of Erling Haaland.
The Haaland we recognise today is the powerhouse Borussia Dortmund goal-getter with an incredible scoring record.
But before his 6ft4in frame was towering over defenders in the Bundesliga, he was just a football obsessed kid playing for fun with kids in the park.
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His family, that includes elder siblings Astor and Gabrielle, moved to Bryne as dad Alf-Inge’s football career began to peter out.
A hard-tackling midfielder, Haaland Sr spent 10 years on our shores – playing for Nottingham Forest, Leeds and finally Manchester City.
He also earned 34 caps for his country, but he is best remembered for clashing with Roy Keane on the pitch.
Keane famously committed a horror tackle on his adversary during a Manchester derby in 2001, which he admitted was done purposefully, after he felt Haaland had injured him on purpose in a previous encounter.
Not much is known about mother, Gry Marita Braut’s achievements in the sports world.
But in Norway she was recognised as a national champion heptathlete in the 1990s.
Amusingly, Graeme Souness – who didn’t know that fact at the time – alluded to him taking after his mum, when it came to his football ability.
“He’s always on the half turn, he’s not squared up looking at his own goal. He’s really pacey. He’s got that sixth sense that all the top strikers have,” Souness told Virgin Media, when purring about the talent.
“He’s in the right place at the right time. He looks like he’s quicker than anyone, he’s bigger than anyone. He’s got a great chance of being a top man, hasn’t he?
“His mother must have been a good player because his dad was a plodder.”
With athletes as parents, Erling had a very good chance of being sporty.
Although he enjoyed playing football, he competed in a variety of sports up to the age of five.
And incredibly, he still holds a world record for the longest standing jump ever recorded by a five-year-old, according to International Age Records.
On January 22, 2006, he produced an astonishing leap of 1.63m and became the highest-jumping five-year-old in the world.
Alf-Inge revealed he made sure his son would “test” himself in a whole host of sports before choosing football.
Confirming the record, he told Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet: “It was before [Erling] started playing football.
“We used to take him to athletics so he could test himself. Erling played handball, athletics and cross-country skiing till he turned 14. Norway’s handball manager wanted him to play handball.”
He added: “I thought it was nice to play tennis and handball next door.
“Versatility is important. You get to develop completely different sides of the body, and that can be positive no matter what you do.”
However, that same year Erling chose football and signed up with Bryne FK, where his father’s dreams started.
Slowly, the natural sportsman would climb through the ranks, playing a year ahead of his age.
“He always scored a lot,” Alf Ingve Berntsen, his coach at the time, told AFP.
“When he was 12, he started playing with the 13-year-olds and kept scoring. When he was selected for the regional team, he scored again.
“Then, when he was 15, he was called up to the (youth) national team and… he scored.
“We saw quite quickly that he could become a very big name. But we didn’t think it would happen so quickly, that he would be a top scorer in the Champions League at the age of 19-20.”
First team debut
Growing up, Erling was light.
However, a sudden growth spurt at 14 gave an indication he would become the hulk he is today.
“He was very skinny but we knew his genetics were very good,” Berntsen told Sky Sports.
“We had to be patient and give him time to grow. Imagine what this guy will do when he has muscles.”
Bernsten added: “That is the good thing about growing late.
“He had a longer period to develop those technical skills. It is why you should not always look at what a player is doing on the pitch but what they are trying to do.
“Sometimes, you see a player trying to do something good but their body is growing and does not respond.”
Already a phenomenon, and streets ahead of everyone around him, Haaland was physically ready for his first-team debut.
So, it came no surprise that three months before he turned 16 he made his debut for Bryne in Norway’s top division.
He would play a further 16 times in his debut campaign. And although he failed to find the net, he left an impression on a Norwegian goalscoring legend.
Molde-d into a prolific striker
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fell in love with Haaland the moment he saw him play.
In 2017, the Man Utd legend, who was coaching Molde in Norway, added the wonderkid to his squad.
“It was just natural that a great talent like Erling would move to Molde,” former Norway hitman Jan Age Fjortoft said.
“As many Norwegian talents had done before him. I think it was very inspiring for all talents to work closely with Ole Gunnar, because of what he had achieved as a player, but also because that success was based on hard work and great attitude.
“It was also no disadvantage that Ole Gunnar was one of the best finishers around and strikers like Erling could learn from his experience every day.”
In his first 20 games, he scored an unspectacular four goals.
His mentor, Solskjaer worked with him. Then, Haaland went viral.
A stunning display against Brann in 2018 announced him to the world – where he scored four goals in the first 21 minutes, in front of Manchester United scout Norwegian scout Tommy Moller Nielsen.
It was a moment that had Solskjaer purring he was similar one of the most feared strikers in world football.
“He reminds me of the type of striker Lukaku is,” Solskjaer remarked. “There is a lot of interest in him.”
Getting his wings
Solskjaer understood he couldn’t keep Haaland at Molde.
The club had rejected an offer from a Champions League-winning – reportedly Juventus.
However, Red Bull Salzburg would pay £7million – beating Leeds United to the punch with the deal.
He thrived under now-Leeds boss Jesse Marsch in Austria, especially on the biggest stage in the Champions League where he would make history.
Haaland scored three goals on his debut against Genk, then followed that with a double against Liverpool at Anfield and two more against Napoli. The world knew who he was now.
Further demonstration of his ruthless nature in front of goal was evident in a stunning 12-0 humiliation of Honduras in the U20 World Cup.
He scored a world record nine goals in that demolition. It was no wonder by now that he was nicknamed ‘The Terminator’.
Dortmund to the unknown
Haaland would only play 27 games for Salzburg in all competitions, netting an incredible 29 goals – including eight in the Champions League.
German giants Borussia Dortmund just had to have him upfront, after seeing such luminaries as Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang lead their line.
They paid a meagre £18million for his services in 2019. Immediately, it appeared money well spent when he made a Roy of the Rovers style debut.
Coming off the bench in the second half against FC Augsburg, he scored a hat-trick in just 23 minutes.
And the goals have just flown in over the past three seasons.
Across all competitions, he has scored 85 goals in just 88 games.
For his country, he’s equally as potent – with 15 in 17 matches.
Next season, it would be a wise bet to put your money on Haaland being the Premier League top scorer.