At 20, Erling Braut Haaland is thriving “where the stars shine”. In only his second season in the competition, the Borussia Dortmund striker has hit the ground running, smashing UEFA Champions League records in prolific fashion.
The youngster spoke to UEFA.com about his life, motivation, “underdogs” Dortmund, and how he is not focusing on breaking records – or his rap career.
On social media and rap
You have six million Instagram followers. How does that feel?
You’re missing some there! If you go and check right now, you’ll see it’s not six million. It has gone up to 6.1 million now. So it’s going well!
Talk us through: “Winter’s coming. Let’s chop some wood”
It’s a nice picture. I was in the woods on vacation with my father, working at the cabin.
Who are Flow Kingz? Will you be releasing any more music soon?
Flow Kingz are me and my … I don’t know what you would call it, my rap group, or whatever. As you may know, we have a good song on YouTube. It’s a nice group of people. Right now I’m fully focused on football. So that’s not in my head right now, but we never know what will happen in the future.
On growing up and family
What was it like growing up in Bryne, Norway?
It was very nice. I moved there when I was turning four years old, from England. I enjoyed it a lot and I still have a lot of good friends who I’ve been friends with my whole life.
Did that experience help you keep your feet on the ground?
Yes, of course. You know, people from there, we are humble and hard-working people.
How much of an inspiration were your parents?
They’ve been supporting me my whole life and they still do. They’ve given me lots of love and joy.
On motivation, goals and breaking records
What is it about the Champions League that motivates and inspires?
My dream was always to play in the Champions League, and when I went to Salzburg, I knew that if we won the league we would qualify directly for the Champions League. I knew that for a long time, and when it finally happened I was like, “OK, this year is going to be my year” with Salzburg. It started well and it’s just something special, you know, the whole thing. That’s where the stars shine, if you can say so.
You scored a hat-trick on your debut. Do you remember the goals?
We were focusing on this Champions League debut for the whole club with Salzburg, and I was waiting for this moment in the Champions League; in my dreams I obviously [imagined] scoring on my debut, imagined how nice that would be, and then it went like this: 100 seconds and then I scored! And the stadium just exploded, so yes, it was an amazing debut, and some amazing days there.
Your third goal was checked for offside before being given, so you didn’t fully celebrate.
I was thinking, “OK, I will not celebrate [in case] the celebration is for nothing”, you know. So I was waiting a little bit, and when I saw the goal was OK, and I had scored a hat-trick, I was like, “Oh my God, I’m actually living the dream!”
Your eighth Champions League goal broke two important records: the first teenager to score in five consecutive matches, and the first player to score eight goals in their first five matches.
To be honest, I had no idea about these records [before]. After my debut, I just tried to keep it going, you know? And also, we showed our quality in the Champions League, the way we played, and so we won. I just try to do my job, and my job is of course to score.
Your tenth goal – and second of the night – against Paris in the 2019/20 round of 16 first leg was a rocket!
That was the last Champions League game with supporters, with a full house, and it was my Champions League debut for Dortmund so it was a bit special. It was my first Champions League game for them, and yes, I remember the whole stadium sort of exploded. It was also a very nice night.
That goal made you the fastest player to reach ten goals in Champions League history. When do you become aware of a record like that?
It’s normally when someone [tells me] after the game, or if I see it [on social media], or something like that. It’s nothing before because you don’t know what will happen. It’s free motivation to just keep going, to try and deliver on the big stage.
You also broke Kylian Mbappé’s record in becoming the youngest player to reach 15 Champions League goals. Does that make you think: “Wow!”
Yes. He’s an amazing player, also one of the world’s best. And yes, of course it’s not my focus [to break records] but it’s nice to do something good.
When you’re in form, do you just expect to score every time you play?
Yes, but I don’t go into games like this. I go into games trying to do all the other things right, and if I do all those things very well, if I position myself well, if I do this well and do that well, I know the goals will come. So if I’m fully focused and concentrating on doing the right things, the goals will come.
On the 2020/21 season so far
You’re this season’s joint-top scorer. What has been your favourite goal so far?
I’m actually not quite sure, maybe the home match against Club Brugge – the first goal, when Jadon [Sancho] played me through. It was a nice goal.
Dortmund face Sevilla in the round of 16. Are you feeling confident?
Of course. They are a tough opponent but we have to deliver our best, and we have to really play at our highest level to have a chance against Sevilla. They’re a good team, it’s difficult to play against them.
Last term you bowed out to Paris at this stage. How determined are you to progress further this season?
I’m very motivated to do that, and I also expect us to go further this season. So we have to perform at our best.
Do you think Dortmund can win it?
That’s a difficult question, to be honest. You know how many good teams there are. So I just call us “the underdogs”, and we’ll see what happens.
On that Champions League feeling
What gives you that feeling?
For me, a midweek game. It’s always been like that my whole life – you know, midweek [means] it’s the Champions League on Tuesday and Wednesday. It’s always been like that, and it’s building up after the game at the weekend, it’s building up to the Champions League. And I just like the setting, you know? From the song, from the day before, training with the Champions League ball. And, of course, it’s a bit more special than the normal [domestic] games. So yes, I like it a lot.
When you hear “UEFA Champions League”, what’s the first thing you think of?
I think of the ball going into the net, to be honest.