Football Features

How Erling Haaland’s UCL goalscoring record compares to modern legends

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 10:45, 11 March 2021

Erling Haaland is a goalscoring phenomenon and has taken the Champions League by storm.

Since debuting in the competition at the start of last season, the 20-year-old Norwegian has scored more goals than anybody. Twenty times he’s found the back of the net for Salzburg and Borussia Dortmund and no one, not Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, nor even the white-hot Robert Lewandowski has scored more in that time.

But that comparison isn’t fair… to Haaland. See, while all three of those goalscoring greats are in their 30s and have over 400 Champions League appearances between them, Haaland has 14.

So we’ve looked back at these three legendary goalscorers, as well as other greats from the modern era, and compared how they did over their first 14 Champions League appearances when compared to Erling Haaland.

Erling Haaland

After 14 Champions League appearances

Age: 20
Goals: 20
Shots: 45
Shots on target: 29
Assists: 2

Haaland is a freak of nature. Not only has the Norwegian been relentlessly prolific (in the 14 games he’s played in so far, he’s scored in 12) but he’s also terrifyingly accurate. His 20 goals have come from just 45 shots, meaning his shot conversion is an otherworldly 44%! He’s unreal, but how does he stack up?

Lionel Messi

Age: 20
Goals: 4
Shots: 38
Shots on target: 17
Assists: 1

Arguably the greatest player of all time, Messi spent his first few seasons as an injury prone mesmeric winger. As a result he wasn’t the goalscoring phenom he is now and by the time of his 14th appearance he had scored just four goals with an 11% shot conversion rate.

1-0 Haaland.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Age: 20
Goals: 0
Shots: 35
Shots on target: 13
Assists: 1

Mr. Champions League has 134 goals in Europe’s top competition but he took his time to get going and, by the time of Ronaldo’s 14th appearance, he hadn’t scored at all. In fact, Ronaldo didn’t score until his 27th Champions League appearance, and although he pretty much hasn’t stopped since then, he’s a way off Haaland’s quick start.

2-0 Haaland.

Robert Lewandowski

Age: 24
Goals: 6
Shots: 41
Shots on target: 13
Assists: 4

Since Haaland debuted in the Champions League last season only Robert Lewandowski has kept pace with his scoring. The Polish striker currently has 19 goals, and will hope to add to that when Bayern Munich next play. However, when Lewandowski was first emerging with Borussia Dortmund, he was nowhere near that prolific, scoring just six times.

3-0 Haaland.

Karim Benzema

Age: 20
Goals: 10
Shots: 53
Shots on target: 27
Assists: 1

It’s easy to forget just how good Karim Benzema is because he played years in a supporting role at Real Madrid, but he’s always scored goals well as the star of a team. A great instance of this was when he emerged at Lyon when, despite being just 20 years old, he bagged 10 goals in his first 14 European games for Les Gones and marked himself out as one of the very best young strikers around.

4-0 Haaland.

Luis Suárez

Age: 28
Goals: 7
Shots: 54
Shots on target: 22
Assists: 6

Owing to his emergence with lesser clubs, Luis Suárez didn’t hit 14 Champions League games until he was 28 years old and well on his way to winning the 2014/15 edition of the competition. Despite his advanced age and experience, Suárez only scored seven goals in those first 14 games, but he balanced that out with six assists to show his all-around quality.

5-0 Haaland.

Neymar

Age: 22
Goals: 6
Shots: 47
Shots on target: 16
Assists: 3

The sensational Neymar hit the Champions League in style with Barcelona and, even though he was a dynamic genius playing alongside Messi and Suárez, he couldn’t match Haaland’s absurd productivity. Obviously he’s not a pure goalscorer, but his goal-getting is good enough to be worth a comparison.

6-0 Haaland.

Kylian Mbappé

Age: 18
Goals: 9
Shots: 33
Shots on target: 17
Assists: 3

Erling Haaland is smashing goalscoring records left, right and centre and pretty much all those records belong to Kylian Mbappé. The French teenager emerged with Monaco in 2017 and took the knockout rounds of the Champions League by storm. He scored at a ridiculous rate, ending his first 14 games (spread between Monaco and PSG) with nice goals and 3 assists and an impressive 27% shot conversion rate. That’s not quite Haaland levels but you have to remember that Mbappé did all this at 18 years of age, two years younger than Haaland!

7-0 Haaland.

Edinson Cavani

Age: 27
Goals: 9
Shots: 34
Shots on target: 16
Assists: 2

Like his fellow Uruguayan Suárez, Edinson Cavani was a late bloomer in the Champions League and as such didn’t play his 14th game until he was 27. As a result, he rattled off an impressive nine goals with a 26% shot conversion for Napoli and PSG.

8-0 Haaland.

Didier Drogba

Age: 27
Goals: 10
Shots: 47
Shots on target: 23
Assists: 1

The ultimate late bloomer, Didier Drogba didn’t show up in the Champions League until his mid-20s and yet the Ivorian man mountain still picked up an impressive 10 goals in that time. Drogba’s shot conversion of 21% was good, but what really proved his quality was the even spread of his goals across his left foot, right foot and head.

No one else on this list has scored more than onw header, while Drogba has three, and in splitting his remaining goals between his two feet with four on his left and three on the right, Drogba is the only striker to have more than one goal in every category. A truly brilliant no. 9 and with his combination of size, power and outrageous technique he was one of the few forerunners for Erling Haaland.

9-0 Haaland.

Then there’s the older modern greats, the players who played their first 14 games before 2003/04 when specific data began to be collected and collated. As a result we can only compare their goal totals with Haaland, but it still makes for some interesting reading.

Andriy Shevchenko

Age: 22
Goals: 8

The Ukrainian centre-forward was a storming young presence for Dynamo Kyiv and his first 14 games saw him score a hat-trick in the Camp Nou against Barcelona – but he topped out at eight goals.

10-0 Haaland.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Age: 21
Goals: 5

It’s incredible to think that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still playing elite football and could conceivably be back in the Champions League this year. The Swede has never really excelled in Europe and managed just five goals in 14 games as a lankly young colt for Ajax.

11-0 Haaland.

Samuel Eto’o

Age: 23
Goals: 5

The only man in football history to win back-to-back Trebles. Samuel Eto’o didn’t start the Champions League as prolific as he would later go on to be and managed just five goals in his first 14 games, one of which was a massive game-winner against Chelsea, though.

12-0 Haaland.

Thierry Henry

Age: 23
Goals: 8

The magnificent Thierry Henry got off to a thoroughly reasonable start of eight goals in his first 14 Champions League games. He would later go on to score 50 in total and win a Treble in 2009. Impressive, but not enough for this particular comparison.

13-0 Haaland.

Ruud van Nistelrooy

Age: 25
Goals: 8

Ruud van Nistelrooy hit the Champions League like a bat out of hell (if you don’t know, ask your parents) with PSV, scoring eight goals in his first 11 games. Unfortunately for the Dutchman, his comparatively slow start after joining Manchester United (three goalless games) left his total stuck at eight, though he did go on to score 14 in his next 14.

14-0 Haaland.

Raul

Age: 20
Goals: 8

The original “Mr. Champions League” emerged as a teenager for Real Madrid and scored a very impressive eight goals in his first 14 games in Europe. Well, Raul had six in his first eight during his debut season and while his second was less prolific it ended in glory as Madrid ended their 32-year wait to win the Champions League again. And, of course, Raul went on to set a goalscoring benchmark that never looked like being equaled until two fellas called Lionel and Cristiano came along.

15-0 Haaland.

Ronaldo

Age: 26
Goals: 3

If there’s one thing that makes no sense, it’s that Ronaldo never got to show his best in the Champions League. His emergence came in the Cup Winners’ Cup and UEFA Cup, and when he finally got to the Champions League injury struck. As a result, his first 14 games saw a measly return of just three goals.

To be fair, he did score a hat-trick against Manchester United in his 15th game, but that was as good as it got for the great man in Europe. Age, injury, a dysfunctional Real Madrid side and the cup-tied rule ensured he never succeeded, having to watch from the stands as his AC Milan team-mates claimed the 2007 Champions League while he was unable to play.

16-0 Haaland.

The verdict

So there you have it. Sixteen legendary goalscorers went up against Erling Haaland and 16 legendary goalscorers were swatted aside. He has twice as many goals as the next highest man on the list! Haaland is literally rewriting the record book every time he takes the field. The Champions League has never seen his like before. A true goalscoring phenomenon, a colossal titan that crushes everything in his path.

 

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