Lost among the increasingly justified hype surrounding teenage sensation Erling Braut Haaland has been the stellar form of another 19-year-old Borussia Dortmund forward, Jadon Sancho.
While Sancho’s combination with Dortmund captain Marco Reus drove the side to within two points of Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich last season, the Englishman’s budding rapport with Haaland suggests the side could go one better this term.
In the three games since Haaland’s arrival, the two teenagers have scored 10 of Dortmund’s 15 goals, while they’ve also racked up four assists between them.
Haaland’s seven goals in three games -– a Bundesliga record –- adds to the 28 he scored in just half a season with former club Red Bull Salzburg, making for an exceptional return of 35 goals from 25 appearances.
In the yellow and black, Haaland has now scored once every 19 minutes — another Bundesliga record.
Not willing to be outdone, Sancho’s 13th-minute opener in Dortmund’s 5-0 win over Union Berlin on Saturday made him the youngest player –- and only teenager -– to score 25 goals in the Bundesliga.
Since arriving from Manchester City, Sancho has also chalked up 34 assists for Dortmund -– including 13 this season -– to have the pair shaping up as the most dangerous two-pronged attack in German football.
After the victory over Union, Sancho hailed the start of what is already a formidable combination.
“We combine very well and we’re able to bring that into the games and help the team,” Sancho told the Bundesliga website.
“I’m really happy he’s here.”
– Record-breaking start –
Also speaking after the game, Haaland”s feelings towards the Englishman were clearly mutual.
“You can see on the pitch it (the relationship) is very good. He’s a great guy,” Haaland said.
“I’m enjoying my time here so far. My teammates are good and as you can see that makes it easier for me.”
While one of Haaland’s stated goals on signing day was to learn German, his on-field relationship with Sancho shows no signs of being lost in translation.
“We do everything in English. But what is most important is that we understand each other on the field based on instinct – just like today.”
Haaland is not content to rest on his laurels after his record-breaking start. He warned the rest of the Bundesliga -– as well as Dortmund’s Champions League last 16 opponents Paris Saint-Germain –- that he’s yet to hit his stride in the German top division.
“It was really tough but it was also nice. I need to get fitter but that will come with more games. I’m not yet at 100 percent.”
Speaking to the Bundesliga website after Dortmund’s 5-1 win over Cologne in late January –- in which Haaland scored a brace — Sancho said his teammate’s drive was clearly evident.
“As you can tell, he’s very clinical in front of goal – but he was disappointed today because he should have scored three or more goals.”
But while the Norwegian is flying high, he needs look no further than former teammate Paco Alcacer to see that there’s no guarantee the good times will last.
Alcacer started his Dortmund career with six goals in his first 81 minutes –- a record bettered by Haaland by four minutes when scoring his first against Union.
Alcacer departed before the winter transfer deadline to Villarreal, after injuries and a run of poor form -– as well as the big Norwegian’s arrival -– saw him fall out of favour.
But with RB Leipzig and Borussia Moenchengladbach’s form struggles since the winter break, Dortmund fans will hope Haaland –- as well as sidekick Sancho -– will be able to continue their assault on the Bundesliga as the side look to break Bayern Munich’s seven-year stranglehold on the title. AFP