Anderlecht assistant coach Ian Burchnall has revealed how he tried to sign Erling Haaland while managing Norwegian side Viking.
The Man City hotshot was coming through at Bryne at the time, but a potential move was scuppered because of Haaland’s dad, Alfie.
In the end, the 22-year-old joined Molde, where he worked under former Man United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and as fate would have it, Haaland would come on to score the winner against Burchnall’s Viking just months after making the move.
Since then, Haaland has developed into the best striker in world football – having scored goals for fun with Borussia Dortmund as well as RB Salzburg – and he has set the world alight since joining Man City last summer, with 52 goals to his name this season.
However, even as a teenager, Burchnall says it was clear Haaland was going to become a world beater after hearing rave reviews from scouts and coaches who worked closely with the Norwegian international.
Speaking exclusively to talkSPORT, Burchnall said: “Erling was living in Bryne and he came through at Bryne which is like the neighbour town [and Bryne and Viking] are kind of rivals, even though Bryne was lower level and Viking was a big club. But there was a bit of a battle between the two clubs.
“Erling was coming through [and] everybody talked about him obviously, especially when he was 14 or 15. We had an English scout, Gary Goodchild, that was based out there and all he was doing was saying: ‘We’ve got to get this boy in!’
“But his dad wasn’t a big Viking fan; he’s a Bryne boy and I think he was happy where he was. He was starting to play in the first-team at a young age and developing really well there, so they weren’t keen to bring him out.
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“Obviously, as he really excelled and started to break into national teams, there was only one place he was going to go and that was Molde where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was [manager] and they were the biggest club in Norway at the time.
“In his first season he broke through, we [Viking] played Molde at home. Solskjaer was managing Molde and we had a red card after five minutes and a penalty against us.
“We played amazing and we got the game back to 2-2 and we were 2-2 with ten men for the whole game and then they brought Erling on with 15 minutes to go and he scored the winner in front of our crowd as well.
“I remember speaking to Mark Dempsey after the game and Demps was Ole Gunnar’s assistant and he’d been at Molde for a few years and before that, he spent a long time at Man United. He said to me: ‘Ian, I’ve never seen a number nine with this quality. In all my time at Man United, I’ve never seen one [like Haaland].’
“He [Haaland] was 17 at the time but he was tearing the league up and there was no doubt where his career was going to go. The last time I saw him was when he was scoring the winner against us in Viking’s stadium.
“Even at 17, physically, I remember them bringing him on and just thinking: ‘Jesus!’ He was powerful when he ran through and finished the chance to win the game and everybody you spoke to was saying: ‘The boy is so far above the level.’”