Erik Thorstvedt can pinpoint the moment he earmarked a young Erling Braut Haaland as a star in the making.
Thorstvedt, a former international goalkeeper for Norway who represented Tottenham Hotspur in the 1980s and 90s, used to live in the same neighborhood as Haaland; his son would even line up against a team that featured the Borussia Dortmund forward, now among the best strikers in European football.
“There was this one match in Norway where he scored four goals in 20 minutes. And that’s when everyone was a bit like: ‘Oops, what’s happening here?'” Thorstvedt tells CNN Sport.
At the age of 20, Haaland has already written his name into football’s record books.
He racked up 20 Champions League goals in 14 games — faster than any other player has reached that mark — and is also the first teenager to score in his first five Champions League appearances.
In Germany’s Bundesliga, he is the first to score 25 goals in his first 25 matches and he also hit a hat-trick in 19 minutes and 48 seconds on his league debut.
Such is his goalscoring prowess that some have tipped him to reach the same heights as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. But Thorstvedt, who turned to broadcasting and punditry in Norway since retiring from football, thinks such comparisons put undue pressure on Haaland.
“If you look back in 15 years, he will have smashed a lot of records and he will have scored a lot of goals and be recognized as a really great player,” says Thorstvedt.
“But I don’t think we should put him on the Ronaldo and Messi platform, at least not yet. Let us take that as a pleasant surprise, if that happens.”
Standing at 6 feet 4 inches, Haaland cuts an imposing figure in Dortmund’s frontline and complements his strength and size with blistering speed and ruthless finishing.
But Thorstvedt explains how that wasn’t always the case.
“Now he’s massive, almost like a monster on the pitch, but he didn’t used to be like that, and I think that’s actually been an advantage to him because he had to work harder,” says Thorstvedt.
“When you physically dominate, it comes easily to you. It’s maybe easy also to get a bit lazy.
“When he started to grow and become this monster as he is, then obviously that was just added value on top of everything else.”
It’s no fluke that Haaland has enjoyed so much success so early in his career.
“He’s a very intelligent player because he seldom goes in offside positions and he times his runs really, really well,” notes Thorstvedt, adding that Haaland’s speed helps him to get behind defensive lines so often.
“When he turns on the turbo button, the ludicrous button and just takes off … he’s so incredibly fast for such a big person … you think it’s just brute force, but it isn’t. I mean, he’s got these deft little touches.”
On Wednesday, Dortmund faces Manchester City in the second leg of the sides’ Champions League quarterfinal.
The German side will need to overturn a 2-1 deficit from the previous leg in order to reach the semifinals for the first time since 2013.
With Dortmund currently fifth in the Bundesliga, six points adrift of fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt, failing to qualify for next year’s Champions League is a distinct possibility.
That could lead to Haaland seeking out a transfer in order to keep playing in Europe’s premier competition, and Thorstvedt highlights Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester City and Manchester United as potential clubs the forward could represent next season.
“I don’t think there’s really that many teams who could say: ‘Well, he’s not for us,'” says Thorstvedt.
“Given the chance, if you just let him play every game the whole season, he will end up with a lot of goals. Definitely.”