Many have dubbed Atalanta’s Rasmus Højlund as the next Erling Haaland, but that would be a lazy explanation. The Danish striker is another example of Atalanta’s exceptional recruitment, and he might very well be La Dea’s next big sale.
Højlund, unsurprisingly, spent his youth career in his home country, most notably at FC Copenhagen. He joined Sturm Graz in the winter of 2022 and scored 12 goals in 21 appearances for the Austrian side. That was enough for Sporting Director Tony D’Amico and he bought Højlund to Atalanta for a little over €17 million.
The 20-year-old didn’t particularly hit the ground running in Bergamo. He had to share minutes with mainly Duván Zapata. That doesn’t mean the Dane was unable to show promising signs. Against Napoli for example, Højlund was a handful for defenders with his strength and speed. If it wasn’t for Alex Meret, Højlund would have put Atalanta ahead after only three minutes.
The striker has really made a mark since the new year. In 2023, Højlund has 6 goals in 11 matches. The Dane excels at a couple of attributes – his speed to begin with, like already named earlier. He demonstrated his insane acceleration at the Olimpico against Lazio not too long ago. Højlund started his run just outside Atalanta’s own box during a counter, beat Patric, received the ball and stormed past Elseid Hysaj and Luis Alberto. He went all the way into Lazio’s box, but was denied a wonder goal by Ivan Provedel.
During that match, Højlund showed another one of his qualities: his relentless hunger for goals. Ever since the start of that match, you knew he was going to score. Højlund does not give up easily, and his goal eventually came in the 65th minute when Ademola Lookman delivered an unmissable cross. Their pairing this season has been quite devastating in Serie A this season.
Højlund’s eye for goal gets backed by the statistics. Out of all his shots, 51.5 percent of them are on target, which is more than his Norwegian counterpart Haaland. He also manages more shot-creating action than the Manchester City striker. And it also sheds light on the Atalanta’s man well-rounded nature.
The Dane is an incredibly hard worker, which he showed against Lecce last week. Atalanta were losing at their own turf, but Højlund was not ready to give up. He pressed Falcone and blocked his pass, scoring the 1-2 after 87 minutes. Højlund simply keeps on going.
A couple of weeks ago on a Sunday evening against Milan, he struggled against the trio of Pierre Kalulu, Malick Thiaw and Fikayo Tomori, which is nothing to be ashamed of, as they were also able to hold off Harry Kane not too long ago. He still did pretty well on some occasions, holding the ball for his teammates, but Milan’s last line was simply too strong.
For Højlund, it is a case of being consistent with his form and to keep starting for Atalanta. Comparisons to Haaland might be a bit premature, but the Dane is a big talent nonetheless. That hasn’t gone unnoticed in Serie A either, as according to Corriere dello Sport, Juventus have identified him as a possible replacement for Dušan Vlahović in case of his departure. That does not come as a surprise, as the two are very similar based on statistics.
Højlund remains a player to watch as Atalanta continue their battle for the Champions League spots.
All stats by Fbref
Jurre van Wanrooij | GIFN