For Eddie Tagseth, there was never any doubt. Even as a teenager, Erling Haaland was always destined for the top.
“We didn’t play many games together, but I saw enough!” the Rosenborg midfielder tells GOAL, reflecting on their days together with Norway’s under-17 team.
“He was just like he is now: strong, powerful and always scoring goals. He’s always been the same!”
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Haaland actually failed to score for Norway at the 2017 U17 European Championship in Croatia, when he and Tagseth were team-mates. Norway finished bottom of their group, and were outclassed by an England side which included the likes of Phil Foden, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Jadon Sancho.
It is a rare failure on the Borussia Dortmund star’s CV, however. Since then, the 21-year-old has been a man on a mission.
His aim? To become the world’s No.1 striker.
So far, so good, you’d say. Haaland’s record, first for Bryne, then for Molde, later for Salzburg and now for Dortmund, is exceptional. In the Bundesliga alone, he averages a goal a game. In the Champions League it’s ever better. For Norway’s senior side, he has netted 12 times in 15 appearances.
“It’s really incredible to see what he is doing,” says Tagseth, who hopes to soon be joining him with the national team.
“I’m the same age as him, virtually, but it’s really motivating to see that a young player from Norway can go on to become one of the best in the world, which is what he is.
“He’s had good luck with the clubs he chose, but he’s also a really hard worker and he does everything professionally. To see Erling at the top, it kind of makes sense because he’s always done the right things.
“I remember when he was at Molde, he scored four goals against Brann in a game. After that, he went to Salzburg and kicked on.
“And that’s the thing with him. Anywhere he goes, he just carries on scoring and doing great things. Once he was at Salzburg, you could see that he was going to be a top, top player.”
It is a shame, of course, that we will not see him at next year’s World Cup in Qatar, but Tagseth believes that with Haaland in full flow, and with the likes of Martin Odegaard, Sander Berge, Kristoffer Ajer, Alexander Sorloth and others emerging, it won’t be long before Norway are competing at major tournaments again, as they did in the 1990s.
“That’s everyone’s feeling now in Norway,” he says. “The 1998-2003 age group, there’s a lot of talent, and already a lot of players are doing well in good leagues.
“So, everyone has faith that soon, Norway will be qualifying for tournaments again and doing good things. We have good young players to build a base around. It’s looking really good.”
The same could be said for his own career, too. Having taken the bold decision to leave Liverpool in 2019, Tagseth is progressing well with Rosenborg. He has made close to 60 senior appearances now, including a dozen in the Europa League and Europa Conference League.
“I’m happy with my decision,” he says. “I know a lot of people had their doubts and maybe questioned my decision to return to Norway, and to leave such a great club, but I’m happy with the progress.
“It took some time, but this year and last year I played a lot. More than 50 now, which I think is pretty good as a 20-year-old. I think now I can be myself more and become a good player for the team.”
Tagseth joined Liverpool in 2017 as a 16-year-old, and immediately found himself playing under Steven Gerrard with the Reds’ U18 side.
“I was already buzzing and looking forward to it, then you get the news that Steven is coming and it’s like double!” he smiles. “It was surreal really, reading it in the newspaper in Norway.
“Then, you meet him for the first time after only seeing him on the telly or on FIFA, and you have to look twice to make sure he’s real! Then, you start to get to know him and he’s a really great man and a great coach too.”
Gerrard liked him, and once compared him to James Milner on account of his engine and versatility. Tagseth signed as a dribbling winger, but developed into a box-to-box midfielder at Liverpool, and occasionally filled in as a wing-back.
“Steven worked a lot with me on the defensive side, positional play,” he says. “I think he saw straight away that I had the engine to get forward and also to run back. So, he worked hard with me to get me into the right positions, to be available in attack but also to get through my defensive work.
“Under him, I improved so much defensively. I came to England as a dribbler and a winger, and when I went back to Norway I was a box-to-box midfielder that did a lot of things defensively.”
After a promising start on Merseyside, it was injuries which curtailed his progress.
“I had a stress problem behind my knee, and that really killed me,” he says. “If you’re out for half a year, then you get the same injury and three or four months more, it’s hard to get back into the team.”
Tagseth spent another season at Kirkby after Gerrard’s departure to Rangers, but in 2019 made the call to move on.
“Obviously, it was hard,” he says. “When you leave Liverpool as an 18-year-old, you know it’s gonna be hard to come back and play at that level. So, it’s a tough decision, but I knew it would be tough to even get back into the 23s side.
“Then, Rosenborg came asking, and I thought it would be a good time to go back to Norway, get some first-team experience and get my body back to where it was before.
“I came in August 2019, and it wasn’t until the following January that I felt back to my full fitness. But now it’s going well.”
He smiles as he remembers some of his old Reds team-mates. The likes of Curtis Jones, Neco Williams and Rhys Williams have all gone on to play in the first-team at Anfield. Tagseth remains close to the Williamses, in particular, but Jones is the one who stood out in terms of talent.
“Yeah, he took the p*ss, to be honest!” he laughs. “In training sometimes, he could do what he wanted, just dribble past everyone and score.
“I would say he was up there with the best players I’ve played with and trained with, for sure.
“I still keep in touch. I’m going to London in January and plan to visit Liverpool for three days. It's the FA Cup that weekend so hopefully I’ll be able to get to the game at Anfield.
“I still speak to Neco, Rhys. We still have group chats, still communicate on Instagram. They’ll always be friends.”
For now, though, the focus is on the future. And who knows, maybe in the not-too-distant future he will be linking up with Haaland again?
“That’d be nice,” he grins. “I haven’t seen him for a while...”