Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick made no secret of his admiration for Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland ahead of Der Klassiker, backing the Norway international to dominate the future of the sport.
Haaland has enjoyed a rapid rise since establishing himself as first choice at Salzburg for the start of the 2019-20 season, his remarkable haul of 28 goals in just 20 matches for the Austrians propelling him to top of many big clubs’ transfer shortlists.
But, while the likes of Manchester United were keen on Haaland, Dortmund persuaded him to make the move to Signal Iduna Park, where he has been an overwhelming success.
In 45 matches across all competitions, Haaland has 43 goals, while he outperformed his xG (expected goals) by 4.2 in the second half of 2019-20 after joining Dortmund, meaning not only is he scoring frequently but he is also finishing more difficult opportunities – by comparison, Robert Lewandowski has not boasted such a strong xG differential since 2016-17 (7.8).
In three previous games against Bayern – two in the Bundesliga and one in the DFL-Supercup – Haaland has two goals, but he is yet to end up on the winning side against them with BVB.
Erling is all of us rn pic.twitter.com/1u4e7WWnnI
— Borussia Dortmund (@BlackYellow) March 2, 2021
Nevertheless, Flick is well aware of the threat posed by the Molde youth product, with Bayern facing the prospect of potentially being replaced at the Bundesliga summit by RB Leipzig if Dortmund leave the Allianz Arena with all three points on Saturday.
“Haaland is what a centre-forward has to be,” Flick said.
“He has an enormous hunger for goals. The future could belong to him because he has everything he needs for it.
“He’s fast, has a strong finish and the right mentality. When you see the intensity with which he puts on a sprint over 80 metres – it’s great. He’s someone you always have to watch out for.
“It’s very important to close the spaces for him. We have to cut off those passes to him.”
Flick was also asked about the situation of backup goalkeeper Alexander Nubel, who arrived on a free transfer from Schalke last year having established himself as one of the world’s most-promising young goalkeepers.
It was always seen as a potentially risky move for Nubel given the presence of Manuel Neuer, who has gone on to put his injury nightmares behind him and once again cement himself as Bayern’s number one.
Nubel’s agent recently underlined his client’s frustration with the situation and suggested he would look to secure a loan move away from Bayern if things did not change, and Flick showed little sympathy in his response.
“Those are things that we talk about internally – we will have an exchange,” Flick said. “But we have no business talking about that here.
“His point of view is his right. Alex knew what he was getting into when he came to Bayern Munich. My job as coach is to pick the players who are currently the best team. He played two games and now he’s injured.
“The clear number one is Manuel Neuer.”