Fri, 18 Sep 2020

By Oliver Trust

BERLIN, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- Trying to count Erling Haaland's cheers and laughs over a day can be a challenge. There rarely seems a moment when you can't find the 20-year-old Norwegian international making jokes or funny comments.

This time, the grand terrace of the plush team hotel in Bad Ragaz seems the perfect stage for the Borussia Dortmund striker. Within seconds, his entire audience seems enthralled.

In the club's pre-season training camp, he earns a roar of laughter after admitting to already feeling like an old man with all the youngsters around.

"I just reckon I'm far from being one of the youngest in this squad," Haaland said. "Yes, I feel like an old man."

Haaland is far from trying to play the role of an entertainer. His humor seems far more to be a source of energy.

Right after joking, one of Europe's most wanted attackers delivers some serious points. Haaland quickly turns into an ambitious footballer talking about being a perfectionist regarding daily training, professional lifestyle, and his desire for silverware.

For good reason, he calls Dortmund one of the best European football clubs for gifted youngsters seeking to develop.

"Why would all these guys be around if it wasn't the case?" the Norwegian said in a recent Xinhua interview.

Knowing that young talents have a realistic chance of playing in vital games made him choose to join Dortmund and reject offers from several of the continent's biggest teams.

"Dortmund is the right place to be for them and me. It's why I'm here, to go forwards and take the next step," the striker said.

Meanwhile, the current squad might contain more promising youngsters players than any other European outfit.

Jadon Sancho (20), Jude Bellingham, and Giovanni Reyna (both 17) all feature in the first team, with Youssoufa Moukoko set to join them when he turns 16 in November.

Haaland praised Moukoko as the best 15-year-old he has ever seen. "He's much better than I was," he said.

Not thinking about the future too much is the right approach, he said. "Step by step, that is what I am doing," he commented.

He admitted to having improved his physical presence by working on physical conditioning, sleeping patterns, recovery times, and nutritional elements. "That's what youngsters need to do," he added.

In a short time, Haaland and Sancho have developed into world-class performers. Both are seen as the club's new shooting stars.

"But even we are still young. So I am not thinking about other clubs or trophies. I want to do nothing but play games."

The Norwegian has consistently been the subject of rumors about a possible move to Real Madrid or leading Premier League clubs.

Part of Haaland's professionalization is changing his shirt number from 17 to the traditional number 9 of a center-forward, and he is taking his new number as a motivation booster.

"I'm very much looking forward to starting into a full season for the first time here. That means more goals," he said, having joined Dortmund only in January.

He isn't setting any goal-scoring objectives, but "I will take care of my mental state much more as there are many games ahead of us."

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