Erling Haaland’s affection for Leeds United goes back all the way back to the beginning ahead of Manchester City’s trip to Elland Road.
When Erling Haaland first saw Manchester City’s fixture list for his debut Premier League season, two fixtures jumped out at him.
Speaking on stage outside the Etihad at his summer unveiling, Haaland played to the crowd and said: “I don’t want to say the words, but… Manchester United.”
It immediately endeared him to the City support, and underlined his status as a boyhood Blue. It will also have gone down well across the Pennines, ahead of Haaland’s emotional reunion with Leeds over Christmas. In fact, the second fixture Haaland’s eyes were drawn to was Wednesday’s trip to Elland Road – his first meeting with a club that holds a significant place in his heart.
Haaland’s affection for Leeds quite literally goes back to the very beginning, as he was born in the city when father Alfie played for Leeds United, before moving to Manchester City. Haaland would grow up supporting the Blues, but has never forgotten his roots and has always shown an active interest in Leeds as a fan.
For instance, when at Borussia Dortmund and rumours were swirling over which European club would sign him, eagle-eyed Leeds fans spotted him signing autographs for Dortmund fans in 2021 while wearing Leeds United training shorts.
A year before, he asked Leeds’ Northern Ireland international Stuart Dallas to swap shirts after Norway beat them in a friendly. Dallas would later recall: “He walked behind me and asked about swapping shirts. It probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do, because we’d just been beaten 5-1 and I’m laughing on camera.
“We did it and then he leaned into me and said, ‘Marching on together!’ It was a bit strange. I’ve known the Leeds connection with his father and it was nice he wanted my shirt.”
Even before that, Haaland gave Leeds fans hope that they could have an advantage to sign one of Europe’s most exciting youngsters when he said in 2017 when still at Molde that: “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.”
He may have supported City, but his dream was to win the Premier League with Leeds. At least he may fulfil the second part of that dream at the Etihad.
And having worked with current Leeds boss Jesse Marsch while at RB Salzburg, Haaland was among the first to congratulate his old coach when he was appointed at Elland Road. When Haaland learned that his first career appearance against Leeds would come on Boxing Day (later moved back two days), he text Marsch straight away.
“Before, when I got the job he and his father were both incredibly supportive and excited for me,” he said. “We’ll expect him to be fully ready and passionate about this match, which causes issues for us.
“Erling texted me as soon as the schedule came out and he said he’s most excited for Boxing Day,” said Marsch. “I gave him permission to have a small hamstring injury for that match.
“He’s born here. His father has history with the club. He has the club in his heart because of that. It’s something we talked about.”
So when Haaland walks out at Elland Road, you may see a repeat of his reaction to walking out at the Etihad in 2021, his love for the stadium apparent in one comment.
If he cannot win the Premier League with Leeds, playing there for another side he loves, hoping to be Champions themselves, might be the next best thing.