Norwegian sensation Erling Braut Haaland knew exactly whose shirt he wanted at the end of his country’s 5-1 demolition of Northern Ireland in Belfast.
Born in Leeds while his father was a player at the Elland Road club, he’s always followed the fortunes of the newly-promoted Yorkshire side. And it was straight to Irish right-sided midfielder Stuart Dallas he went, right on the final whistle.
Dallas who was named Leeds Players’ Player of the Year in 2019/20, said, “It was a nice touch. Obviously there’s a Leeds connection there. But I didn’t think he’d want to swap shirts with me.
“It’s nice he keeps an eye on Leeds and he wished me all the best in the Premier League. That shows a lot about the type of person he is.
“His performance was incredible. He’s only 20 and has a big future in front of him... maybe someday he’ll come to Leeds.”
Haaland starred in Belfast with two spectacular goals and an unselfish assist to team-mate Alexander Sorloth as the under-strength Irish were sunk without trace.
It was the first time I had seen the player in a live game, before that I’d just seen goal clips, but if I ever had any doubt he was the real deal, it was all blown away on Monday. He’s a colossus of a striker, the type that will score spectacular goals for fun.
So good he was scary. At 5-1, I thought I can’t watch this any more. There were still 30 mins left on the clock. It’s not easy seeing that happen to your country, especially at home.
I still can’t forget the day many years ago, I stood on Windsor Park’s Spion Kop in the teeming rain watching England’s Kevin Keegan and Trevor Francis run amok in another 5-1 drubbing. Northern Ireland had scored a penalty just after half-time (shout out to my old mate Victor Moreland) to get back in the game at 1-2, but all it did was make them angry!
Haaland has made no secret of his love for Leeds United, and has gone on record saying, “I want to be the best possible. The dream is to win the Premier League with Leeds.
“In addition, the goal is to become a better player than my dad was. I hope to get more caps than he did.”
Of his most recent shirt-swap Haaland said to Norwegian TV, “I think he is a great player and the best Northern Ireland player out there today.”
Leeds United fans went into raptures on social media as the clip went viral.
Haaland, pursued by Manchester United before moving to Borussia Dortmund, wouldn’t be drawn on whether he sees himself with a future in England’s Premier League.