Haaland’s goal prowess evoking memories of Ronaldo, Messi

  • Manchester City's Erling Haaland celebrates at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Manchester United Sunday at Etihad stadium in Manchester, England. Manchester City won 6-3 and he scored an hat trick. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

MANCHESTER, England — The contrast could hardly have been more stark.

While Erling Haaland plundered his latest hat trick in a season that threatens to see him smash English Premier League scoring records, Cristiano Ronaldo sat glum-faced on the sideline.


Here was confirmation of a passing of the guard. We have entered the Haaland era, with the reigns of Ronaldo and Lionel Messi ever diminishing.

He is playing for Manchester City, arguably the most talented team in club soccer, and in Kevin de Bruyne has a provider of laser precision.

Haaland’s three goals in a 6-3 rout of Ronaldo’s Manchester United on Sunday pushed his total to 17 in 11 games for the league champion – 10 if the Community Shield is discounted. It is a mark of his devastating threat.

With 14 in the league, he is on course to surpass the 23 scored by last season’s joint Golden Boot winners, Mo Salah and Son Heung-Min, in just six games’ time.

Brentford at Etihad Stadium on Nov. 12 could be that moment. But given Haaland’s feats already, it seems unlikely he will have to wait so long. It all just feels too easy for the 22-year-old Norwegian, who at 1.93 meters (6-foot-4) towers over most rivals, and weighing in at 86 kilograms (189 pounds) has the power to brush off the attentions of any center back who can get close to him.

That is before his break-neck turn of pace is taken into account, with just a couple of strides of his daunting gait taking him away from opponents, as well as the dexterity to reach the ball in areas he has no right to do so. See his “kung fu” goal against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League last month.

It creates a corridor of possibility unlike any striker in the game right now. If the ball is anywhere near his vicinity in the final third, the goal is at threat.

It seems impossible to imagine the record of 34 league goals set by Andy Cole in 1994 and Alan Shearer in 1995 will not fall this season.

Ronaldo’s best was 31, while Sergio Aguero, City’s all-time leading goal-scorer, never managed more than 26. To put Haaland’s numbers into context, Messi and Ronaldo still remain the benchmark.

Messi’s finest campaign saw him score an incredible 73 in all competitions for Barcelona in 2011-12, including 50 in the Spanish league. Ronaldo was at his most prolific in 2014-15 for Real Madrid, where he struck 61. The record in England’s top-flight is 60 by Everton’s Dixie Dean in 1928.

The big question mark hangs over his fitness. Various muscular issues forced him to miss extended periods for Dortmund, but there have been no such concerns in his City career.

Guardiola puts that down to City’s medical department.

“Last season, he could not play many games,” Guardiola said. “Arrive here and we have incredible physios. One of the most important departments is the doctors and physios and they help, so thank you to them.”

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