Cast your minds back just a few weeks when football was uninterrupted and the world was raving about Erling Haaland.
The Norwegian’s impact has been so seismic that he was evidently in the heads of nearly every PSG player when they spent their last-16 second leg against Borussia Dortmund mocking him.
Neymar and co. were particularly upset by what turned out to be a fake Instagram post, but comparisons with Kylian Mbappe were no doubt playing on their minds too.
The Frenchman, now 21, must have thought himself the heir to the thrones of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the boy destined to become a Ballon d’Or winner and dominate the global stage unrivalled.
Now that Haaland is on the scene, we can’t be sure.
The 19-year-old has already scored 61 career goals and earned a move to Borussia Dortmund in the process.
A relatively low release clause of just £63 million means Europe’s elite are still hovering around too, despite his transfer only taking place in January.
So inevitably, Haaland’s phenomenal rise has got us thinking about how he shapes up compared to Messi, Ronaldo and Mbappe when they were the age he is now.
All were seen as generational talents and only time will tell if the Dortmund striker is able to keep up his form over the course of many years, as the others have done.
At any rate, it’s still an intriguing question to see how his achievements compare to some of the game’s great forebearers.
International goals: 0
Champions League goals: 10
Honours: Austrian Football Bundesliga x 1 (2018/19)
Haaland’s early goals may have come with Molde and RB Salzburg, but what catapulted his name into the spotlight was his impact on the Champions League. The teenager even admits he has the competition’s music as his alarm clock, such is his love for the big European nights.
The Bundesliga seems the perfect place for him to develop and since arriving at the Westfalenstadion, he’s scored 12 goals in his first 11 appearances in all competitions.
International goals: 4
Champions League goals: 2
Honours: La Liga x 2 (2004/05, 2005/06), Supercopa de España x 2 (2005, 2006), Champions League x 1 (2005/06)
This comes with the caveat that Messi was having to break into a Barcelona side that still boasted Samuel Eto’o and Ronaldinho in attack. It would take a little time for him to establish himself as their talisman but it was immediately clear to all that he was something special from the moment he made his debut against Porto.
Most players would retire happy with the honours list above, yet the future six-time Ballon d’Or winner had achieved all that by the age of 19 and would go on to spearhead an even better Blaugrana side in the following years.
International goals: 9
Champions League goals: 10
Honours: Ligue 1 x 2 (2016/17, 2017/18), Coupe de France x 1 (2017/18), Coupe de la Ligue x 1 (2017/18), FIFA World Cup x 1 (2018)
The big criticism of Mbappe is that he’s so far been ‘stat-padding’ in Ligue 1 with Monaco and PSG.
Yet there’s no taking his World Cup away from him, even if he was part of a very strong French team, especially as he scored four goals out in Russia.
International goals: 7
Champions League goals: 0
Honours: FA Cup (2003/04)
Ronaldo was yet to hit his prime at Manchester United but the Portuguese was beginning to show glimpses of what was to come.
It’s remarkable that he didn’t score a Champions League goal before the age of 20, however, given the mercilessness with which he treated his opponents in Europe after joining Real Madrid.
GIVEMESPORT’s Kat Lucas:
On the one hand, it seems ridiculous to start comparing Haaland to Messi and Ronaldo. Mbappe’s a fairer comparison.
Mbappe’s record shouldn’t be shot down so easily. What a phenomenal career he’s had, albeit in France, but a World Cup and a formidable Champions League run are nothing to be dismissed lightly.
The same can be said of Haaland. It’s his European performances that make him really stand out, not what he’s achieved in Norway, Austria or even Germany. His performance against PSG in the second leg (he was on fire in the first) was a reminder that not everything he touches will turn to gold. Mbappe aged 19 edges it, for me.
But let’s see if either of them is able to emulate the aforementioned pair for the next decade – because it’s unlikely we’ll ever see anything like them again.
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