BY ALAN TEMPLE in MOLDE – @CCP_Sport
HIBERNIAN starlet Ryan Porteous is relishing the opportunity to renew hostilities with Erling Braut Haaland following a stark introduction to the talents of Norway’s new wunderkind.
The Molde striker is on the cusp of completing a move to Salzburg – funded by the riches of the Red Bull group – in a deal which is likely to reach £10 million following add-ons.
Haaland, the son of former Manchester City and Leeds player Alf-Inge, will become the all-time most expensive export from the Eliteserien, usurping John Carew’s £7.5 million switch from Rosenborg to Valencia in 2000.
Unfortunately for Hibs, the terms of the impending move are understood to include a loan back to Molde, for whom he has scored 9 goals in 15 games, for the remainder of 2018, meaning he is still expected to lead the line on Thursday night.
For all the fanfare, Haaland remains something of an unknown quantity to British audiences; uncapped at senior level and having missed the 0-0 draw at Easter Road last week due to transfer talks in Austria.
However, Porteous crossed swords with Haaland when he captained Scotland’s under-19 side against their Norway counterparts in March, blissfully unaware that the likes of Manchester United and Juventus were tracking the 6ft3ins teenager.
Haaland subsequently notched a hat-trick in a breathless 5-4 win for Norway as Donald Park’s Scots crashed out of the European Championships elite round.
“Haaland is obviously a really good player but, in fairness, that was a crazy game,” recalled Porteous. “He’s a big, strong, physical guy who is quick and powerful.
“He’s decent in the air and really has got all the attributes that a striker needs.
“I didn’t know much about him before the game – it was only after it I saw the links with Manchester United and teams like that. It was a good experience playing against players of that quality.
“We were in a group with Holland and Germany and, although they were good, Haaland was probably the best striker in that group. He gets in loads of good positions and, although sometimes he squanders chances, he is always in there. We have to try and snuff that out that danger.
While acutely aware of the threat posed by Molde, who defeated league leaders Brann 5-1 in a timely illustration of their potency on Sunday, Porteous was in bullish mood as the Hibees touched down in the idyllic coastal town yesterday.
“We always knew that they were a good team – but we have not been beaten in our last seven games, we are a good team too,” he added. “We had great away form last season and there’s no reason we can’t take that over to Norway.
“I felt we dominated the home leg and we created the better chances. I don’t remember Molde having a clear-cut chance.
“We want to be positive and win the game. We have enough quality to do that.”
Martin Boyle, irrepressible this term and described as ‘a revelation’ by head coach Neil Lennon following another bombastic showing in the 1-1 draw against St Johnstone at the weekend, is likely to be pivotal if Hibs are to claim the away goal that could change the course of the tie.
“We fancy our chances, especially when we have guys like Martin Boyle, who is in great form,” lauded Porteous. “He was brilliant against St Johnstone on Sunday again.
“Martin will get in behind and cut balls back and we have guys like Flo Kamberi and Jamie Maclaren who can pop up with a goal
“Martin is one of those players who will always give you problems with his pace and his quality on the ball. Molde will definitely be looking at him as one of our main threats – and hopefully he will be on top form again in Norway.”
As always, the focused Porteous will have his game-face on when he takes his place in the heart of the Hibs defence – and is unlikely to pause to luxuriate in his own progress.
However, as a boyhood Hibs supporter who was in the crowd back in 2013 when they were humbled 7-0 at home by Malmo, playing such a key role in their European resurgence has been a thrill.
Porteous added: “You always get nerves and butterflies in your stomach, but you’ve got to relish these environments. It’s a dream come true for me to play in them and you have to thrive.”