Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper had an idea just how good Erling Haaland would become when he first experienced him five years ago.
Cooper was head coach of the England Under-17s when they faced Haaland’s Norway at the 2017 European Championship in Croatia.
The Young Lions won their Group D clash that night, but Haaland’s route to the top was clearly mapped out.
Cooper will get a taste of just how much the 22-year-old has improved when his Forest side head to face Manchester City on Wednesday night.
“We were aware of him even then. To qualify for a European Championship at under-17s you know you’re going to come up against a good team over a generation,” Cooper said. “They had a few who were good at that stage and Haaland was one of them.
“We did our analysis and watched the qualification games and could see he was a good player.
“We had players in our team too with good reputations, like Phil Foden, (Jadon) Sancho and (Marc) Guehi.
“When you play in those games you know there’s always going to be one or two players that will have a chance of going on.
“The obvious quality is his goalscoring ability and his ruthlessness in wanting to do that.
“For all of the good things he’s got in his game, that’s the real obvious one that makes all the difference. That’s what we’ve been analysing as much as anything else.”
Haaland has already proved he belongs in the Premier League, with six goals in his first four games, with his scoring power rescuing City in games against Newcastle and Crystal Palace.
That is making Pep Guardiola’s side an even bigger threat this year.
“He’s a really good athlete, a really powerful player who gets into the box,” Cooper added.
“But at the same time there’s so many parts to City’s game that you can look at and think it’s such a high level.
“What we’ve got to do is just continue to believe in how we work and how we analyse, and take each game for what it is. This is obviously a a massive test but it’s the games we want to be part of.
“He has definitely added to that attacking strength, that’s for sure. We just have to be as mindful as we can of it but back us to be the best we can be as well.”