By Oladosu Oluwagbenga
Goal Beast? How Haaland Compares To Legends At 22 – In his career, the Manchester City striker may set innumerable records, but what were the current superstars doing at the same point in their careers?
The descriptions of Erling Haaland grow increasingly absurd—goal machine, beast, robot, incredible Nordic meat shield—but the Manchester City striker has been nothing short of extraordinary since moving to the Premier League from Borussia Dortmund in the summer.
In his first 10 games for City, Haaland has scored 14 goals, and boss Pep Guardiola has cautioned that his star striker will only get better.
Haaland, who is only 22 years old, has already scored 149 goals for clubs and another 21 for Norway, putting him on track to become one of the all-time greatest goal scorers.
But how does he compare to some of the game’s greatest players at this point in his career?
Guardiola never deviates from describing Messi as the greatest player he has ever managed.
“[Haaland] can be a better player [than Messi is], he can have the will do do it,” he said after Haaland’s Premier League debut. “He likes football, I have never seen a player who is 21 or 22 years old – maybe Messi he was already advanced – but the rest are never finished and always you can improve.”
The Argentine, however, fell far short of Haaland’s astounding totals at the same age in terms of goals scored.
Despite spending the most of his career as a winger, Messi made 112 appearances for Barcelona and scored 44 goals. He also helped Barcelona win three La Liga championships and two Champions Leagues.
He also experienced his greatest period of goal scoring at this age, scoring 628 goals in his next 666 games for the Spanish powerhouses. By the time he was 23, he had won the Ballon d’Or.
Ronaldo, like Messi, was just one season away from taking home his first Ballon d’Or at the age of 22, but he had already lost out to Kaka for the title of greatest footballer in the world.
Since he was primarily utilized as a winger at the time, his 50th career goal came just before his 22nd birthday in April, and it took him another six months to score the first of his 50 career hat-tricks.
However, Ronaldo’s professional path was somewhat similar to Haaland’s in that he also determined that moving to Manchester was the best way to establish himself as a true world-class athlete.
Haaland and Mbappe will be the strikers to steal the spotlight for at least the next 10 years if Messi and Ronaldo dominated the last decade or more.
Since the Paris Saint-Germain striker made fun of Haaland’s “zen” celebration after Paris Saint-Germain defeated Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League in 2020, the rivalry has already started.
Haaland is 18 months older than Mbappe, although the latter earned the Golden Boy three seasons earlier after a remarkable year in 2017 with Monaco, PSG, and France.
He presently leads Haaland in terms of overall club goals with 208 from 286 games, averaging 0.73 goals per game, which is comparable to but slightly behind Haaland’s 0.78.
When comparing them at this point in their careers, it is also fairly similar; Mbappe has nine less goals than Haaland, although having made 23 more games.
The current top striker in the world is hotly contested, although Benzema may be most deserving of the title given that he is nearly set to win the Ballon d’Or in the coming weeks.
Although he has always been a reliable performer, his superstar status has skyrocketed in the latter stages of his career, mostly as a result of his emergence from Ronaldo’s shadow.
He was being watched by the best clubs in Europe at age 21 after scoring 66 goals in 148 games for Lyon, and Real Madrid outbid Manchester United to sign him in 2009.
He only scored nine goals in his debut season at Santiago Bernabeu, though.
That pales in comparison to the previous season, when, at the age of 34, his 44-goal total was easily the highest of his career.
When Lewandowski was Haaland’s age and still working in Poland, not many people recognized his enormous talent.
One such person was Sam Allardyce, who attempted to sign Lewandowski to Blackburn Rovers in 2010 but was unsuccessful because of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull’s eruption, which grounded all flights into and out of the UK.
Lewandowski’s career instead truly took off when he joined Haaland’s old team, Borussia Dortmund, winning back-to-back Bundesliga championships and making it all the way to the Champions League final before switching to Bayern Munich.
Lewandowski, however, was still a rising star in Polish football at the age of 22, having scored 21 goals in 32 games for Znicz Pruslow in the second division, followed by 41 goals in 82 matches for Lech Poznan.
Ibrahimovic was 22 years old once, which may feel like a very long time ago.
He arrived in Amsterdam at that age as a relatively unknown striker with a reputation in Sweden as a troublemaker from his time at Malmo, joining Ajax for a club record £7 million.
During his four years in the Netherlands, his abilities on the field rapidly earned parallels to Dutch great Marco van Basten, which prompted a transfer to Juventus.
His major influence in front of goal would come later in his career, most notably at AC Milan and PSG. He scored 48 goals from 110 appearances when he was 22.
It’s possible that Haaland has the same unflinching confidence as his fellow Scandinavian, and if he can equal Ibrahimovic’s stamina, he will have scored a goal or two before the end of his career.
Haaland could very easily threaten Shearer’s record of 260 Premier League goals if he were to play more than ten years without being hurt.
Shearer himself has remarked, “I think he does hang around and does stay healthy then I do think he does think he’ll have a chance.” Harry Kane, though, “may have something to say about it, because he might have already broken it by then,” the author believes.
Despite Haaland having spent his formative years in Germany, Austria, and Austria, the battle is on an equal footing because the Premier League only began two days before Shearer turned 22.
Although Haaland has already comfortably surpassed his father Alfie’s three-goal City record, he still has a long way to go before he catches Aguero’s 260-goal club record.
The Argentine was still playing for Atletico Madrid when he was 22 years old, and he was still one season away from joining City. This fact should give the childhood City supporter some comfort.
With a season average of 26 goals, Haaland’s 14 goals in less than two months indicate that, if he stays for the same amount of time, he will easily surpass Aguero‘s record.
Juve, who was born in 1906, still holds the record for most goals scored by a player for Norway after breaking it in 1933 against the United Amateure (Hungarian Amateurs).
It seemed only a matter of time before Haaland, who currently ranks eighth on his nation’s all-time list with 21 goals from just 23 matches, surpasses his 33-goal total.
Unexpectedly, Juve had a higher strike rate at that point, tallying 26 goals in the same amount of games, including four international hat-tricks, which is twice as much as Haaland.
Sadly, the second half of his career would not go as well, as he failed to score in any of his final 14 appearances before retiring at the age of 27. Haaland will be hoping that he doesn’t experience a similar decline.