Sleep monitors, orange glasses and offal: The secrets of Erling Haaland’s astonishing success

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There was something the Norway manager Stale Solbakken recently told Sportsmail about his country’s superstar, Erling Haaland, that stuck in the mind.

‘His body is still improving, he is still growing,’ Solbakken said. ‘If you look at him now and 12 months ago, you can see a small difference. He takes this very seriously.’

The end product of that is serious numbers — Haaland heads back to Borussia Dortmund tonight with five Champions League goals for Manchester City and 17 in the Premier League.

His father, Alfie, has said the striker is more professional than ever, and sources at Dortmund say he has for a while been completely dedicated to not only refining his ability but his physique, too. 

Erling Haaland has taken the Premier League by storm since moving to Man City in the summer

The Norwegian star has made a flying start and is on course to break all sorts of records

The Norwegian star has made a flying start and is on course to break all sorts of records

And that starts with the basics: shuteye. Haaland is obsessed with proper sleep and how it improves performance, describing it as ‘perhaps the most important thing in life’. So he has worked at perfecting routines.

He wears orange-tinted, blue-light glasses in the hours before drifting off as they block out high energy emitted from natural light and digital screens.

Sleep is scheduled to start between 10pm and 10.30pm most nights, with electronic devices switched off way before then. Haaland is often not contactable, his phone on ‘do not disturb’ to avoid distractions.

He scores well on regular blood tests and with the Oura Ring, a device you wear on a finger which measures sleep quality, temperature trends, stress and heart rate.

Haaland has been compared to Zlatan Ibrahimovic for style and charisma but Callum Walsh, former head of sports science at Newcastle United, made a different comparison. ‘It is the extreme version,’ he tells Sportsmail. ‘The sort of level of Cristiano Ronaldo — every single aspect thought of.’ 

The forward's obsession with sleep, diet and specialised training have been key to his success

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The forward’s obsession with sleep, diet and specialised training have been key to his success

Haaland has been compared to legendary Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic for his style and charisma

Haaland has been compared to legendary Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic for his style and charisma

Pep Guardiola has praised City's medical department for increasing Haaland's availability

Pep Guardiola has praised City’s medical department for increasing Haaland’s availability

There are plenty of Premier League players paying attention to detail before and after training sessions, yet Walsh senses an additional layer of care with Haaland.

Haaland’s body mass has increased markedly since he left Molde in 2019. Following his spells at Red Bull Salzburg and then Dortmund, he now weighs around 90kg. Much has been made of the 22-year-old’s diet, which can reach up to 6,000 calories a day. Norway team-mate Josh King says: ‘I’ve never seen anyone eat as much as he does. He just eats like a bear.’

There is also a cultural reason for that. The small farming town of Bryne, where Haaland grew up, promotes a high-protein diet. Haaland sees serious benefits in eating mineral-rich offal of properly grazed cows and enjoys heart and liver.

‘Eating quality food that is as local as possible is the most important,’ he said. ‘People say meat is bad for you but which? The meat you get at McDonald’s, or the local cow eating grass right there?’

Haaland has become much stronger since initially breaking through as a teenager at Molde

Haaland has become much stronger since initially breaking through as a teenager at Molde

Haaland wears orange-tinted, blue-light glasses in the hours before drifting off as they block out high energy emitted from natural light and digital screens

Haaland wears orange-tinted, blue-light glasses in the hours before drifting off as they block out high energy emitted from natural light and digital screens

He also wears an Oura Ring - a device which measures sleep quality, temperature trends, stress and heart rate

He also wears an Oura Ring – a device which measures sleep quality, temperature trends, stress and heart rate

Offal is considered easily digestible by dieticians and offers more nutritional value in small doses, with players advised against red meat on a matchday. Haaland’s diet is balanced with carbohydrates — including his dad’s lasagne — and a love of fish.

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He fancies himself as a dab hand in the kitchen, too, learning when he left home for Molde at 16.

‘Some players are scared of carbs after growing up in academies and needing to hit targets,’ one source says. ‘Let’s cut out rice, pasta… but that’s your fuel for running.’

Haaland does not appear to have that problem, with a varied menu. ‘You should be my favourite people here,’ he told chefs at City’s training ground on his first day.

When visiting family back home, he will indulge in a kebab pizza or Chinese food. They are rarities though. Obviously, Haaland has dined at Italian restaurant San Carlo and Catalan eaterie Tast, in Manchester — rites of passage for any top-flight footballer.

Haaland dropped out of Pep Guardiola’s side against Copenhagen earlier this month, the first time he has not started since his £51million move.

Guardiola said Haaland did not feel right after the victory over Southampton and City — mindful of his troubling injury record at Dortmund — have tried to manage his workload. Guardiola has credited City’s sports therapist Mario Pafundi and the wider medical department for finding a way of increasing the player’s availability after adductor problems he had at Dortmund. 

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He returns to former club Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday, after leaving for £51m in the summer

Pafundi even went away on international duty with Haaland — a move designed to keep him to a routine. Haaland is set to be given a fortnight’s break during the World Cup, too, given Norway did not qualify. ‘Once you start to get soft tissue injuries, you need to stay on top of them. They don’t just go away,’ Walsh says.

‘Clearly there has been something going on behind the scenes. They are putting a system around him in terms of diet, monitoring training, travel, strength and prevention. They will have details of what made him flare up. It might be certain methods in training — maybe a lot of shooting drills or consecutive training days on the grass.’

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Walsh discusses a small programme he introduced for a Premier League player to eradicate persistent hamstring issues. He says: ‘Sometimes it takes issues to make a player think, ‘This is annoying me, what can I do?’ If it then shows signs of improvement after interventions, they realise it isn’t rocket science. They get engaged.

‘Most players are a similar height and weight — 70-80kg and 5ft 10in to 6ft 2in. Then you get outliers — like Haaland. What fuels them needs to be different. They all have quirks in terms of their profiles. Some of these guys are like racehorses.’

Haaland has scored 22 times in just 15 games already so far this season

Haaland has scored 22 times in just 15 games already so far this season

A racehorse is a description also used by Solbakken and it is an interesting term when one considers Haaland’s gym work. He is wary not to build unnecessary muscle, bulk that could be detrimental to a striker who needs to remain streamlined to continue reigning as the fastest player City possess.

Guardiola is fairly sure Haaland will retain his focus during the time off in November.

‘How perfect he will be depends on how he behaves in Marbella,’ he said, tongue-in-cheek. ‘He has a house there. He will play golf and hopefully not eat and drink much!’

Some more restful nights ought to see him attack the second half of a season that promises much.

BORUSSIA Dortmund (probable, 4-4-1-1): Kobel; Wolf, Sule, Hummels, Guerreiro; Adeyemi, Can, Bellingham, Malen; Brandt; Moukoko.

Manchester City (probable, 4-2-3-1): Ederson; Akanji, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo; Rodri, Silva; Foden, De Bruyne, Grealish; Haaland.

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