Erling Haaland is capable of following in the footsteps of Robert Lewandowski by becoming one of the most fearsome strikers on the planet, says former Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich boss Ottmar Hitzfeld, but the 19-year-old sensation is “not ready yet”.
The 2019-20 campaign has proved to be a breakthrough one for an exciting Norwegian frontman.
Having started the season scoring goals for fun at Red Bull Salzburg, Haaland was snapped up by Dortmund in the January transfer window – with rival interest from the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid fended off.
End product has continued to be delivered at a remarkable rate in Germany, leading some to suggest that the hottest of prospects is destined to reach the very top.
Comparisons are already being made between Haaland and established stars of the present and past, with his game likened to that of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lewandowski.
Hitzfeld can see why such talk has surfaced, but feels it is too early to be placing a forward still learning his trade into a talent bracket occupied by those who have displayed consistency over a prolonged period of time.
He told Goal and SPOX: “I think Haaland can become like Lewandowski, but he's not ready yet.
“Nevertheless, it was of course a superb transfer from Dortmund in the winter, because Haaland is already a special player. He is incredibly mature for his age, has great qualities and is ice cold in front of goal because, despite his size, he is extremely quick.”
Haaland has burst through the 40-goal barrier across all competitions this season, but Lewandowski could still reach that mark in Bundesliga action alone – with the prolific Pole up to 27 in the German top flight.
Gerd Muller’s all-time record for a single campaign – set at 40 back in 1971-72 - is in the 31-year-old’s sights, with Hitzfeld admitting that the history books may be rewritten.
He said of Lewandowski: “I think he can do it. He has the necessary class and excellent team-mates at Bayern to help him achieve this goal.
“The numbers speak a clear language. Lewandowski plays a significant role in the success of Bayern.”
If Lewandowski were to raise that bar, then Bayern will likely find themselves toasting another title.
Changes have been made on and off the field at the Allianz Arena this season, but the reigning champions have remained competitive.
Hitzfeld said of the alterations: “David Alaba has convinced me as the new head of the defence, while Joshua Kimmich plays inconspicuously but very efficiently.
“And of course you have to mention Thomas Muller. He is in top shape again and extremely important for the team because he creates space and scores crucial goals.”
Hitzfeld is also pleased to see Hansi Flick impressing in a prominent coaching post, with the 55-year-old having earned a permanent contract after initially succeeding Niko Kovac on interim basis.
“I appreciate him very much because he is a meticulous worker, a very good tactician and, above all, has excellent leadership,” said Hitzfeld.
“In the first leg against Dortmund, he got Bayern back on track with the 4-0 home win. That was extremely important for him in order to gain a foothold in the new role.
“Hansi Flick has changed the mood in the team and the club. As a result, he has the necessary backing that you need in Munich. I trust him that he can shape an era at Bayern, but of course you have to win titles.”
Bayern will get the chance to close on an eighth successive crown when they take on closest challengers Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park on Tuesday – with the two sides currently separated by just four points.
A heavyweight contest will take place behind closed doors, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with Hitzfeld saying of that situation: “That is certainly an advantage for Bayern Munich.
“You can generally see in the Bundesliga that the referees are not influenced by the mood and benefit the teams that have more quality.
“In a cauldron, in particular, mental strength often determines the outcome of the game. That is now completely eliminated."