Since bursting on to the scene 18 months ago, Erling Haaland hasn’t looked back, scoring goals for fun in his relentless drive to be the best. As a man of few words – and living the cliché – he tends to do his talking on the pitch, and as a result he is something of an enigma off it. Cracking through that veneer of cool, we spent a bit of time getting to know the Dortmund hitman.

On first impressions, Haaland does not appear to be a big talker, which you may think could prove to be a problem for an interview. But it’s not a matter of not wanting to talk. Instead, it’s more about picking his words. Like his play, he is all about efficiency; why take an extra touch when you can score with one banger of a shot? Likewise, why say more when you can just get to the point, short and simple? It may not come across as media friendly, but that’s not what he’s about. Given time though, and importantly finding the right questions, the young Norwegian was only too happy to talk openly about his inspirations, his ruthlessness in front of goal and his rap career amongst a raft of other topics.

Let’s talk off the pitch to start with. How would you describe your personality and your character?

Hmm… It’s a good question. I’m a very relaxed person that loves football. That’s some easy words I like my family and I spend a lot of time with them, and right now my life is about training, performing and enjoying. That’s how it is.

You can see elements of your personality come out on the pitch when you score and celebrate. Is it fair to say that it’s part of your personality showing through?

Yeah, I would say that I’m a guy that always wants to have fun on the pitch and also off the pitch, so that’s kind of how I am – a smiling guy.

We’ve obviously seen that video of the rap you did when you were 15. If football hadn’t worked out do you think music could’ve been something you pursued?

Yeah, I think I’d be a rapper! I have to be honest, yes! [laughs].

Is it still the aim, one day?

Yeah, hopefully one day I will have a song at the top in Norway.

Would you give yourself a rap name?

I already have one. If you watch the video. Our group is Flow Kings. And it’s feet, and I’m Ling.

So you’re all set up and ready to go! Just football got in the way…

Yeah, I know, right? [Laughs]

Do you watch any other sports or is it just football?

No, mostly just football. A bit of handball, but only when my country plays.

Back to music, what do you like listening to?

I listen to a lot of different things. A bit of rap and a little bit of classic music. It’s a lot of things really, but maybe I need to listen to more rap to get to know it a bit better for the future maybe…

What is your go to though, if you had to get in the car now and put one track on?

There’s a song, it’s called keep dreaming.

When you look at football and fashion and that sort of thing, are there players that you think carry themselves pretty well? Are there any players out there that you look at and think “he’s a pretty cool guy”?

There’s a lot of people that I looked up to when I was young, a lot of players. You have Zlatan, who is one of my role models. You have Cristiano Ronaldo, who is also one, for sure. The things he’s done is amazing. There’s a lot of role models out there.

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I always had the dream of, first of all becoming the best footballer in the world, and to obviously play for one of the best teams in the world. That’s every young person’s dream. So that’s always been my goal and my dream"

Away from football, we’ve obviously already discussed your potential rap career, but are there any other avenues you might want to explore down the line? You see a lot of footballers attending fashion week these days, would that interest you?

To be honest I haven’t been thinking too much about that right now. I always had a dream to become a professional footballer, and so far so good, so I haven’t really been thinking too much about anything else really.

When did you first fall in love with football?

Early. I was young, very young. I always knew that my father was a professional footballer and i always wanted to live out of football. Kind of my dream life, how I would see the life that I wanted to live.

You were obviously born in Leeds. Was there ever a realistic chance that we could make you choose to play for England?

I don’t think so, no. I really don’t know, I moved back to Norway when I was four years old, so I didn’t think about that too much. I’m Norwegian and I’m proud of it.

Your rise has been meteoric. How do you stay grounded?

Staying grounded has never been a problem, because where I’m from, my family and all of these kinds of things have always been grounded, so that will never be a problem. But as you say it has been going fast and in a good tempo that I like.

As you’ve progressed and hit new levels, have you been given any words of advice?

Yeah, me and my father especially have always been talking a lot, about everything from football to outside the pitch. We’ve always talked about these things and about how to get better and how to do things differently.

Obviously with your dad being an ex-pro, what were your earliest memories of watching him play?

I was too young to remember going to games and this kind of thing, but he obviously played a bit in the Premier League and for the national team, but that’s all I really know. And he scored a couple of goals!

Does he speak to you about how different football was then compared to how it is now?

Yeah, we’ve been talking a bit about that. The main differences he brings upon are just the quality in general.

He’s obviously been instrumental in your career. How would you describe how he’s helped you?

He’s helped me a lot. Without him I’d never be where I am today. I just have to thank him and the rest of my family; my mum also has been helping me a lot, as well as my sister and brothers.

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Are there any other people that have had a big influence on you?

I’m lucky to have had a lot of good coaches through the years. Almost every trainer I’ve had has been almost a perfect match for me, so I’m very thankful for that.

You worked with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at one point. Did you learn any specifics rom him?

Yeah, I learned to always be alert and to try to be aggressive in front of goal, and to always want to score. That’s something he taught me. He was a goalscorer and I learned a lot from him.

With your dad having been more of a defensive minded player, did he give you any tips to help you as a striker?

Yeah, of course. He played against a lot of good players and he knows what it takes to be a good striker. He told me the worst things that he met and came up against, and so I try to do these things. Yeah, he’s been teaching me a lot.

Do you feel confident stepping out as your own footballer now, rather than as a footballer’s son?

To be honest this is not my focus. I know that others will look at it, but it’s not my focus. I’m proud to be a son of a former footballer.

How have things changed for you over the last couple of years, have you felt your life change with the bigger profile?

Yeah, of course. It changes how everything has been going for the last few years. But the most important thing is to enjoy it, and that’s what I do every second.

Have you found that transition into the men’s game quite natural?

Yeah I think so. Of course, when you go from the academy, kids and junior football, that transition can always be a bit tough physically, but I’m lucky with my body in these kinds of things and it was smooth for me.

What about when you do something like your celebration and then however many thousands of people are then sharing it on social media. That’s got to be a bit mad?

Yeah, of course, it’s funny to see. In a way it's a bit weird to think that there's so many people talking about me in that way, because for me I’m still just a boy from my hometown in Norway, so yeah, it’s a bit weird.

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I always said to myself that the day when Football is not fun anymore is the day when I stop. I wouldn’t see the reason for playing. I always try to have as much fun as possible. You can imagine against Honduras when I scored nine, that was a lot of fun!"

Adjusting to life in Germany, you’ve picked up from where you left off in Salzburg. What’s made that transition so easy for you?

Yeah, it’s a good question. I think me and my father and the people around me we did good with the choice about the club and the people in the club that made me want to go there and the feeling about the club. And also, almost from the first second I felt like I belonged there. So from there it just got more and more easy to perform and to train and to be yourself very quickly. For me that’s important.

Have you surprised yourself then in terms of how well it’s all gone?

It’s been a fantastic start and I didn’t expect such a good start, but it has been really nice!

You’re part of a young and exciting Dortmund side. How important was that to you when you made the decision to sign for the club?

Just in general how the club has been developing younger players for the however many years, that’s also something that triggered me. You see some big names that have played here.

You’ve struck up a good partnership with the likes of Jadon Sancho. What makes you two click so well together do you think?

The levels of performance are so high and from the first second we just understood each other. Jadon is obviously a fantastic footballer and he can reach the very top.

When you join a new football club do you feel any type of pressure?

I always put a lot of pressure on myself, so that’s also been a natural thing. But pressure from a move? I try not to think about it too much. It’s a lot of pressure, of course. Dortmund is a big club. But that’s something that you have to live with.

It seems like something that you’re so comfortable with. Going back to that game in the U20s against Honduras, when you scored nine goals, you’re obviously quite ruthless in the way that you play as well. Is that fair to say?

Yeah, you can say so. I’m a bit ruthless, yes.

Did you feel any sympathy when you had scored eight goals already and you then add a ninth?

Yeah, but that’s also a bit me. I always want more; I’m always hungry for more. That’s a part of me.

 

With your journey so far, was there a team that you supported growing up?

I think it’s natural when you’re the son of a former footballer to support the clubs that he played for. That’s how it is.

So the likes of Leeds, when you were at Molde you were linked with a move there and with your father having played there, does that come into the thought process at all?

I always had the dream of, first of all becoming the best footballer in the world, and to obviously play for one of the best teams in the world. That’s every young person’s dream. So that’s always been my goal and my dream.

You had a trial at Hoffenheim that didn’t work out. How did that affect you?

I think it was just positive for me. As my journey has been now, it has been perfect for me. I think at that time it was good that I stayed with my hometown club.

How fast does it feel like time is going, if you think back to your professional debut?

Yeah, it’s going so fast – life is going so fast. So you have to enjoy every second of it.

Do you feel like your career has taken care of itself to a certain extent, when people realised how good you were?

I think I’ve always been working hard and I’ve always had good people around me, good coaches, good friends, so that’s how it is.

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Staying grounded has never been a problem, because where I’m from, my family and all of these kinds of things have always been grounded, so that will never be a problem"

After Hoffenheim, did you think to yourself that there were specific things about your game that you needed to improve?

Yeah, I always set goals and try to reach them as fast as possible. It was a motivation for me.

You’re now part of a new generation of Norwegian players. Is there a lot of excitement around the national team at the moment?

There’s a lot of excitement around the team, for sure. There’s a lot of good players coming through. Not only me, there’s Odegaard, Sander Berge, Ajer at Celtic, but also even younger players coming through. I think we will have a very nice future.

You’ve got the Euro 2020 play-offs coming up. When you think of the possibility of playing in a major tournament like that was goes through your head?

To achieve it will be difficult. It’s a tough match against Serbia first, but we’re a good team and anything can happen. It will be a crazy game.

Was there a first tournament that you remember watching?

I remember watching Spain in 2008, winning the Euros, and then in 2010 I remember every World Cup. It’s the dream to play in one with your country, to achieve something with your country.

There’s a couple of Norwegians playing in the Premier League. Have they mentioned anything about it that makes you want to play there one day?

I always try to come into the top five leagues, and right now I feel that Germany is fitting perfectly. You’ve seen this so far. The top five leagues, that’s every footballer’s dream.

You always look like you’re happy and enjoying yourself on the pitch. Is it fair to say that you need that happiness and confidence to play well?

I always said to myself that the day when Football is not fun anymore is the day when I stop. I wouldn’t see the reason for playing. I always try to have as much fun as possible. You can imagine against Honduras when I scored nine, that was a lot of fun!

You do score goals for fun – does it come completely naturally, or do you have to work at it?

I’ve always been working on it, always been watching other goalscorers, and always just tried to be natural and score! Easy as that.

Going back to the move to Dortmund, in terms for reasons, what do you want to know about a club before you make your decision?

In the end it’s just about your feeling. Where is your best feeling. And for me this time it was Dortmund. And yeah, my feeling was right.

Would you ever want to go undercover and be a part of the Yellow Wall?

Yeah, that would be nice!

Do you ever just cross that line and look around and think “this is crazy”?

Yeah, before my debut when I warmed up – when you warm up you have a better view because you’re on the other corner looking up – and I remember thinking wow, it was so tall, so far up. It’s a crazy atmosphere.

How much does the location of a club play a part in your decision?

For me, the most important thing is to play football and to enjoy myself on the pitch. Then I’m good to be honest, so that’s really me.

You’ve talked about wanting to be the best player, playing at the best club – is that where your mind is all the time, at the top?

Yeah, it’s a long way, but I just have to work hard and one day we’ll see.

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Working on any new celebrations at the minute?

We’ll see, maybe…

What would be the next big thing that you’d bust one out for? What milestones are in your sights?

Soon, very soon…

Haaland will be back in action when Borussia Dortmund get their 20/21 DFB Pokal campaign underway on Monday night against MSV Duisburg.