Erling Braut Haaland is without a doubt one of the hottest properties in football right now. The 19-year-old, who signed for Borussia Dortmund in January, has been absolutely unstoppable this season and can already be classed as one of the best strikers in Europe.
In fact, Norway captain and fellow Bundesliga star Havard Nordveit believes he has what it takes to become the best player in the world. Speaking to SID, the Hoffenheim defender said “He is perhaps already the best in Europe in the penalty area.”
“He is also super professional. He does everything he can to become the best player in the world. You can not stop him.”
While Haaland’s talent has never been in question, to hear that he’s as hard-working as he is talented is an encouraging sign for Norwegian football. You only have to look at Cristiano Ronaldo to see where a blend of natural skill and sheer determination to improve can get you. With the Dortmund striker still cutting his teeth at 19 years of age, it’s frightening to imagine just how good he could become.
But how does he compare to his rivals and predecessors in the race to be the best player on earth?
Haaland’s “dream is to win the Premier League with Leeds”
Born in Leeds to former Nottingham Forest, Leeds and Manchester City defender Alf-Inge Haaland, Erling Braut moved to Bryne in Norway at the age of three and went on to join the club’s academy. He made his senior debut at 15 but played only 16 times before being snapped up by Molde.
It’s at Molde that Haaland burst onto the scene as a fresh-faced 16-year-old. He scored on his debut in 2017 and went on to score 16 goals in 30 appearances for the Norwegian giants before attracting the attention of Red Bull Salzburg.
Austria is where Haaland really made a name for himself, scoring a ridiculous four hat-tricks in the first three months of the 2019/20 campaign, finding the net in each of his first three Champions League appearances and becoming the first teenager to score in four (and later five) consecutive games in the competition. His time at Red Bull Salzburg was also punctuated by him netting a ridiculous nine goals in Norway U20s 12-0 demolition of Honduras U20s.
His record breaking start to the season made Haaland one of the most in-demand players on the planet, with Borussia Dortmund eventually winning the race to sign him. He has gone on to score 12 goals in 11 appearances for Dortmund, taking his tally to 40 competitive goals in just 33 appearances in the 2019/20 season.
Still, even he might not be enough to guide Leeds to a Premier League title…
How does Haaland compare to the greats?
Alongside Lionel Messi, it’s the obvious place to start. Cristiano Ronaldo’s Manchester United debut was, in George Best’s words, “undoubtedly the most exciting debut” he had ever seen.
He has gone on to score 626 goals across all competitions for Sporting, Man Utd, Real Madrid and Juventus and become one of the most decorate players in history. The five-time Champions League winner has too many individual and team records to name, but the fact that he’s the all-time leading scorer in the Champions League speaks volumes about his record.
But how did he compare as a teenager?
Ronaldo was in the middle of his second season at Manchester United when he entered his 20s and, while a regular in the Red Devils’ lineup, he hadn’t quite hit the peak of his goalscoring powers.
He had scored a meagre-looking 17 club goals by the time he turned 20, although it’s very important to remember that he was operating as a right winger throughout this period. Shockingly he was yet to even find the net in the Champions League, despite going on to dominate the competition over the last 15 years.
Haaland is the clear winner in this battle, although the young Norwegian has a long way to go if he’s to match Ronaldo through his 20s and 30s.
Verdict: Haaland Wins
Like Haaland and Ronaldo, Messi was already an important figure in his club side by the time his 20s loomed. He made his La Liga debut three months after his 17th birthday against Espanyol in October 2004, but he didn’t actually find the net for the dominant Barcelona until May 2005. Still, that goal against Albacete did make him Barcelona’s youngest ever scorer at the time and helped him cement a place in the starting lineup the following year.
Messi started to hit his stride the following season and by the time his teenage dream ended he could look back on a respectable 26 goals for Barcelona, two of which came in the Champions League.
He’s gone on to score 627 goals for Barcelona, winning 10 La Liga titles, four Champions League trophies and six Ballon d’Or awards… But Haaland still emerges victorious in the battle of the teenagers.
Verdict: Haaland Wins
When Kylian Mbappe burst onto the scene in 2016/17, scoring 26 times for Monaco as they shattered the Parisian dominance of Ligue 1 while maintaining an incredible Champions League run, many hailed him as the natural successor to the soon-to-be-vacated thrones of Ronaldo and Messi.
It’s hard to argue with that. He’s only 21-years-old and already has winners medals from the World Cup and Ligue 1. He has scored 86 goals in just 108 competitive appearances for Monaco and PSG, 19 of which came in the Champions League.
But was he outscoring Europe’s newest sensation?
Erling Braut Haaland’s record stands at 61 club goals and he is, at the time of writing, just over three months away from his 20th birthday.
Kylian Mbappe scored his 61st club goal on November 2nd 2018, netting the eventual winner against Lille. He went on to score another two goals for PSG before his birthday six weeks later, giving him a tally of 63 club goals by the time he reached 20.
If football resumes before mid-July, it’s hard to imagine Haaland won’t break that benchmark figure. However, it’s also worth noting that by that landmark point in his career, Mbappe had already scored 10 goals for France and helped them to a World Cup triumph in Russia.
Good luck topping that Erling.
Verdict: Mbappe Wins