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young guns A new era is about to dawn as Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe vie for the top spot

Mbappe and Erling are game’s brightest stars with future PSG link-up on the cards

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Borussia Dortmund's Erling Braut Haaland is wanted by Europe's top clubs. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender DFL

Borussia Dortmund's Erling Braut Haaland is wanted by Europe's top clubs. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender DFL

Borussia Dortmund's Erling Braut Haaland is wanted by Europe's top clubs. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender DFL

After seeing PSG and Kylian Mbappe demolish Barcelona and Lionel Messi in the Champions League earlier this month, most football judges would have said that it was a passing of the torch as to who was the greatest footballer in the world.

But don’t let’s jump to conclusions. For in Wednesday night’s Champions League action we saw a flame burn brightly, a flame that may one day consume all of world football.

We speak of Erling Haaland, the 20-year striker for Borussia Dortmund who is emerging as a brilliant player for the next 15 years.

Haaland destroyed Sevilla last week, a Sevilla team good enough to win last season’s Europa League.

He has height, power, pace and skill in abundance.

As Irish football legend, and Sunday World columnist Paul McGrath said of Haaland: “When you are playing as a centre-half at a high level, you expect the opposing centre-forward to have two of those qualities.

“When you run into an opponent with three of them, you know you are in trouble.

“But playing against a guy with all four? Then it is time to head for the lifeboats.”

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Jurgen Klopp might be in a position to tempt Kylian Mbappe to join him at Anfield. Photo: Getty Images

Jurgen Klopp might be in a position to tempt Kylian Mbappe to join him at Anfield. Photo: Getty Images

Jurgen Klopp might be in a position to tempt Kylian Mbappe to join him at Anfield. Photo: Getty Images

Haaland was destined to be a footballer. His father is Alf-Inge Haaland (inset), the ex-Manchester City and Leeds player and his mother Marita was an international heptathlete. So the genes were always good!

Indeed, Haaland could have played for England as he was born in Leeds while his father was playing with the Elland Road outfit.

But the family moved back to Norway when the lad was just three and Erling has never regarded himself as anything other than Norwegian.

If you look at our factfile on the pair on the opposite page, you will see that Mbappe scores hugely over Haaland in the matter of honours won.

The French superstar has the biggest medal of all from the World Cup – and he played for PSG in last season’s Champions League Final too.

With due respect to Norway, Haaland is not likely to ever win the World Cup.

Advisors

But, over the course of the next decade and a half, the Norwegian might rack up some serious number of club medals.

Yet with what club will he do that?

Unlike Mbappe, who was thrust straight into the football limelight with Monaco and then PSG, Haaland, his Dad, and their advisors, have taken a softly-softly approach.

Take the case of another gifted young Norwegian talent – Martin Odegaard. Six years ago, he was the talk of European football and joined Real Madrid.

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Cristiano Ronaldo (L) of Juventus FC is challenged by Lionel Messi of Barcelona. (Photo by Nicol� Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Cristiano Ronaldo (L) of Juventus FC is challenged by Lionel Messi of Barcelona. (Photo by Nicol� Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Cristiano Ronaldo (L) of Juventus FC is challenged by Lionel Messi of Barcelona. (Photo by Nicol� Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)

But, the midfielder found it hard to get the game time, playing just eight league games and has been loaned to Heerenveen, Vitesse and Real Sociedad and now Arsenal to get first-team football.

By contrast, Haaland chose Red Bull Salzburg of Austria as his first destination when it came to leaving Molde.

From there it was off to Dortmund when most of Europe’s top clubs were after him, but it was a clever move by Haaland on two counts.

First off, he would now get experience of a European big leagu and secondly, and perhaps most important of all, Borussia Dortmund had a reputation as a club who will sell on the best of their young talent the moment a buying club meets their valuation of the player.

And before you mention Jadon Sancho and Manchester United last summer, the issue there was that United tried to get the young England man on the cheap.

If they had ponied up, Sancho would now be wearing a red shirt.

So Haaland will leave Germany, probably sooner rather than later. But where will he go as Europe’s elite clubs see their finances tumble after a year without gate receipts?

Barcelona and Real Madrid are heavily in debt already. Would they gamble everything on taking more loans to get their man.

Liverpool wouldn’t buy Timo Werner last summer – Haaland is going to cost a lot more than the German international. It’s hard to see them being involved in a summer auction for him.

Bayern Munich have just doled out a lot of money to buy centre-half Dayot Upamecano from RB Leipzig.

So was that their big signing for the summer?

Have Bayern gambled that Haaland would stay with Dortmund for one more year and they could then buy him in the summer of 2022?

After all, their current superstar striker Robert Lewandowski will be about to turn 34 then.

Manchester United’s owners, the Glazer family, have seen a lot of money go down the Old Trafford drain on big buys that have gone disastrously wrong – think Angel Di Maria and Alexis Sanchez.

Flush

They are now flush with money after their other sports franchise, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, won the Super Bowl earlier this month.

But would they be willing to gamble on doing what the club did with Cristiano Ronaldo with Haaland?

Which is pay big money for a young player, make him even better, and then sell him on to one of the Spanish giants for a lunatic sum when Real and Barca have got their finances in order in five years time.

So it may be that if Haaland is to leave Dortmund in the summer it would be to go to a club with unlimited resources – that means PSG or Manchester City.

Mbappe and Haaland together in the French capital. Wow.

Mauricio Pochettino would be pushing for it, for sure, and if Neymar leaves the club, as is being rumoured, then the finances would fall nicely into place.

Which leaves us with Manchester City, one of Haaland’s father’s former teams and a club where Sergio Aguero has given ten years of service. But he is now 32 years of age and increasingly injury-prone.

City need a good young centre-forward and this kid looks the best around. It’s the obvious place for him to go.



Factfile on two super talents...

Erling Braut Haaland

  • Age: 20
  • Height: 6’ 4”
  • Clubs: Molde, Red Bull Salzburg, Borussia Dortmund
  • Country: Norway
  • Honours: Two Austrian Titles, One Austrian Cup
  • Appearances: 93
  • Goals: 65

Kylian Mbappe

  • Age: 22
  • Height: 5’ 10”
  • Clubs: Monaco, PSG
  • Country: France
  • Honours: 2018 World Cup, 2016 European U-19 Championship, Four French League titles, Two French Cups
  • Appearances: 177
  • Goals: 112

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