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Was Jens Petter Hauge the steal of the century?

Lots of crazy things have happened in 2020, but none crazier than Jens Petter Hauge moving to Milan for €5m.

Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration, but this smarterscout young prospect had numbers that begged for a bigger fee, if not a move to a bigger club. We already wrote about Hauge as part of the Norwegian golden generation that we expect to shine at the 2022 World Cup. And when he signed for Milan, we wrote a rather exuberant thread asking whether Europe's superpowers had been caught sleeping. But the proof would be in the pudding. Could Hauge fulfill our enormous expectations?

So far, he has.

Should that be a surprise? Well, it's understandable if scouts and recruiters doubted whether Hauge's form in the Eliteserien could translate to one of Europe's top five leagues. It's understandable, unless they used our league-adjusted metrics.

Let's compare Hauge's performances in Norway to what he's done for Milan. He was one of the four horsemen of Bodo/Glimt's attack during a title-winning season – a season that might have been viewed as a sign of the apocalypse by fans of local megaclubs such as Rosenborg and Molde. And here are his ratings adjusted to a Serie A standard:

Even with our league adjustments, Hauge had outrageous attacking output and excellent ball retention at LW for Bodo/Glimt, with extraordinary finishing to boot. In Serie A, albeit in a very small sample so far, his attacking output has been just as high. His Europa League minutes come from a combination of matches for Bodo/Glimt and Milan. In fact, on 24 September he actually had a goal and an assist for the Norwegian club against his current employers.

Because Milan eliminated Bodo/Glimt from qualifying, he wasn't cup-tied for the rest of the campaign. And if anything, Hauge's involvement in dangerous attacks – and goals – has increased since he started plying his trade in Italy:

Of course, Hauge has had a relatively easy start to life at Milan, playing mainly as a substitute against opponents with tired legs. But the fact that he has instantly become central to the Rossoneri attack, as well as his defensive involvement, has to be a good sign.

One of the things we've always liked about Hauge is that he's far from a one-dimensional player. To see what we mean, check out his smartermap from the 2020 Eliterserien:

When he comes inside, Hauge does tend to use more direct passes just after crossing midfield and shorter passes on the edge of the final third. But those are just about the only uniformities in his game. Everywhere else, he's a kaleidoscope of dribbles, passes, and shots. We think his unpredictability makes him a greater threat, especially on the corner of the box.

The other thing that adds to Hauge's threat is that he doesn't take bad shots. He may eventually find it tougher to get into such good positions in Serie A, but this shot map from Norway is pure fire:

There are only a few speculative efforts on this map. On average, his estimated chance of scoring was about 20% per shot – roughly what we'd expect from an excellent CF, not a LW – and he scored at a much higher rate. There's plenty of room for Hauge to come down to earth in Serie A while still creating exceptional chances.

So what lies ahead for this smiling superstar in the making? We thought we'd check out the players who've had a similar style of play in Europe's top five leagues:

This is an amazing list not just for the quality of the players, but also because three of the eight are from a single club. (Yes, that's Vitolo's full name up at the top.) With Leroy Sane coming in, maybe Bayern weren't in the market for a young LW. But it seems like Hauge would have fit the Bavarian outfit like a bespoke pair of lederhosen. Just to drive the point home, here's a comparison with Kingsley Coman and a 33-year-old Franck Ribery:

Hauge looks like Coman's brother from another continent, and he's almost as good a finisher as Ribery. What he lacks most notably is skill in ground duels on the ball, which may explain his lower ball retention and possibly why Bayern didn't wrangle his signature. But a better predictor of Hauge's style may come from his minutes in the Europa League, where he faced slightly stiffer competition than in Norway:

Like we said before, Hauge is far from a one-dimensional player.Like we said before, Hauge is far from a one-dimensional player. There aren't many LWs who rack up 70+ style ratings for shooting and dribbling, with 50+ ratings for link-up passing and disrupting opposition plays. Using our Search by metrics, we found all of the ones who've managed to do it over 570'+ (the equivalent of about six full matches):

This list has much more of a Premier League bent, and it wouldn't surprise us to see Hauge following in the footsteps of left-sided Norwegian greats like John Arne Riise and Morten Gamst Pedersen in the near future. Whatever he does, we hope he'll keep scoring... and validating our league adjustments as well.

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