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Champions League player to watch: Red Bull Salzburg's Erling Braut Håland

By Mike Goodman | September 16, 2019 | Main

Sometimes a radar screams absolute unit.

This kid is 19 years old and his shot chart looked like this through six games for Red Bull Salzburg.

The dude officially clocks in at a very Norse, very dashing, and not at all gangly 191 centimeters. If you were thinking that his incredibly blond visage looks familiar it might be that you remember him from the time he scored nine, yes nine, goals for Norway at the U-20 World Cup. He may be pretty good at this whole football thing.

Impressively, it’s not just that Erling Braut Håland can score lots and lots (and lots and lots and lots) of goals, he can pass too. Through six games he was third on the team in open play expected goals assisted with 1.43. That’s particularly notable since he can’t pass to himself, and he leads the side with 4.68 xG, more than double his closest teammate.

He’s also quite the contributor to build-up play. Sure he’s a beast around the box, but he’s also happy to drop deeper and receive passes all over the place.

Start running Håland’s current season through the ol’ StatsBomb compare-o-meter, and the first three seasons that it spits back are Kylian Mbappe last year, Mohammed Salah’s first Liverpool season, and Mbappe again, from two seasons ago. No pressure kid!

On the one hand, this season kind of came out of nowhere. He’s officially been Salzburg’s since the summer of 2018 though he didn’t joint them until January and he basically rode the bench all season once he showed up. His new club seemed focused on easing him into things. Until he went supernova. On the other hand, he also had 55 professional matches under his belt in Norway before he made the move, including 39 matches and 14 goals for the league’s dominant team, Molde. That’s what happens when you make your professional debut at 15 years old.

Red Bull Salzburg have an incredibly difficult Champions League draw. In their group, they’ve got both Napoli and Liverpool ahead of them in the natural pecking order of the European game. More than likely the Austrian side can book a ticket for the Europa League now. If they have any hope of advancing they need to start the competition on the right foot on Tuesday. They host Belgian side Genk, and three points is an absolute must. It’s a perfect opportunity for Håland to shine on the big stage. Afterall, it’s only going to get harder from here.

Article by Mike Goodman