Be very afraid - Man City cyborg Erling Haaland is just getting started

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The Norwegian has suggested that he can still improve following his dream debut season in England

Be afraid. Be oh so very afraid. Erling Haaland has done it all - and indeed, won it all - this season, and yet he is still relentlessly, assuredly, frighteningly fixated on eking out that little extra bit of fearsome genius from his game. For most players, 52 goals and a treble would be more than satisfactory for a debut campaign in England. For the Manchester City striker, the world is evidently not enough.

On Saturday evening, as gentle shards of sky blue confetti drifted and settled on the warm sigh of an Istanbul night, Haaland took some time to speak to the waiting television cameras. His eyes were still a touch puffy and bloodshot from the tears of celebration he’d just shed, the Champions League winners medal hanging around his neck held an air of defiant inevitability, like the crown of a boy king whose coronation had been expected since the first shriek of his newborn lungs.

Erling Haaland has said he can keep improving at Manchester City.Erling Haaland has said he can keep improving at Manchester City.
Erling Haaland has said he can keep improving at Manchester City. | Getty Images

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But even in this historic, dreamlike moment, Haaland still found it within himself to demand more. “Don’t forget I’m 22,” he said in that unaffected, matter of fact way that he does. “Think back to when you lot were 22. There’s so much that you are going to learn.

“From when I signed from Dortmund to now there’s such a big difference from so many things. From how I think after games, how I think before games, how I motivate myself, how I speak to others. You get experience through people and on the pitch. I can develop so much more.”

The prospect of Haaland getting even more lethal is a legitimately terrifying one. To hear him speak with such unerring conviction, the rest of the Premier League must feel like a gang of helpless Northumbrian monks, wandering down to the shore one day only to find that the Vikings are rolling over the horizon again, wondering whether if this time they’re bringing AK47s and chainsaws too.

But perhaps the scariest part is that there is a tangible quality to the Norwegian’s claims. This is not just platitude peddling or self-deprecation. Haaland is a monster, a carpet bombing made flesh, and yet he has a number of very real, very obvious flaws. Rarely, for instance, does he look to make runs that he is not entirely comfortable with. That signature dart into the left-hand channel to which we have become so accustomed, usually followed soon after by a flashing lash of his left boot and the bulge of the net, doesn’t often happen on the opposite side. Likewise, there are vast swathes of time where Haaland barely impacts matches at all, instead moping about on the shoulder of the last defender - alone and isolated - counting blades of grass and talking to himself like that one kid at school who was really obsessed with bugs.

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In no way are these criticisms - it would be certifiably insane to pick fault with a player who has registered more than a half century of goals in the past season - but they are observations, and they are observations that the meticulous and dedicated Haaland himself will have made.

Quite often the City forward is compared to a cyborg, or some other equally menacing dystopian sci-fi manifestation of mankind’s hubristic ambition. Almost without exception, in any piece of literature or film that deals with such subject matters, it is not the invention itself, but rather its ability to iterate beyond its intended purpose that brings with it the greatest peril. In other words, it learns. In that regard, the rest of the Premier League should be absolutely petrified; Erling Haaland is still only learning.

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