Are we witnessing the emergence of European football’s latest superstar centre-forward?
Erling Braut Haaland scored a first-half hat-trick on his Champions League debut as RB Salzburg hammered Genk 6-2 in their group-stage opener on Tuesday.
It was the 19-year-old Norwegian’s third treble of a season that has seen him score a remarkable 17 times in nine appearances for his Austrian side.
This came after he netted just the nine times in a single game this summer as Norway thrashed Honduras 12-0 at the Fifa Under-20 World Cup in Poland.
If the surname sounds familiar there is good reason – he is the son of Alf-Inge Haaland, who spent a decade playing in England for Nottingham Forest, Leeds and Manchester City.
Born in Leeds during his father’s spell in West Yorkshire, Haaland scored the first, second and fourth goals of Salzburg’s emphatic victory.
His opener was tucked in right-footed from just inside the area, before adding the second with his left foot after more great work from Hwang Hee-chan. His third – against a wide-open Genk side – was tucked in after a low left-wing cross.
‘He’ll become one of the best in the world’
Salzburg manager Jesse Marsch was asked after his side’s win to describe his striker in three words: “Positive. Energetic. Electric. Or maybe electrifying!” he said. That’s four, but we know what you’re saying.
“He is phenomenal,” said team-mate Max Wober. “With his height, to be so nimble and have such command of the ball. It’s really hard to play against him in training; you just have to foul him.
“Once again, he proved why he’s definitely going to become one of the best strikers in the world.”
The forward himself set his sights on a run deep into the competition – citing Ajax’s semi-final last season as inspiration.
“Everything is possible. We all saw Ajax last year, it would be nice to be the new Ajax,” he said.
“But we know there are lot of good teams. It’s hard, but everything is possible.”
Raul, Rooney, Haaland?
At 19 years and 58 days, Haaland is the third youngest player to score a Champions League hat-trick, behind Real Madrid legend Raul (18 years 113 days in 1995) and former Manchester United man Wayne Rooney (18 years 340 days in 2004).
Haaland is the first teenager to score more than once on his Champions League debut since Rooney scored his hat-trick against Fenerbahce in September 2004, and is the third player to score in the first two minutes of a match on his Champions League debut, after Andreas Moller in 1995 and Eliaquim Mangala in 2009.
|Debut hat-tricks in Champions League|
|Marco van Basten*||AC Milan 4-0 IFK Gothenburg||25/11/1992|
|Faustino Asprilla||Newcastle 3-2 Barcelona||17/09/1997|
|Yakubu Aiyegbeni||Maccabi Haifa 3-0 Olympiacos||24/09/2002|
|Wayne Rooney||Manchester United 6-2 Fenerbahce||28/09/2004|
|Vincenzo Iaquinta||Udinese 3-0 Panathinaikos||14/09/2004|
|Grafite||Wolfsburg 3-1 CSKA Moscow||15/09/2009|
|Yacine Brahimi||Porto 6-0 BATE Borisov||17/09/2014|
|Erling Braut Haaland||RB Salzburg 6-2 Genk||17/09/2019|
*Van Basten ended with four on his debut, a feat as yet unmatched.
The teenager has some work to do when it comes to hat-tricks, though. The world’s best two, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo, have both scored eight in the Champions League alone.
The next best haul is three – managed by Filipo Inzaghi, Mario Gomez and Luiz Adriano.
There’s no chance of Haaland turning out for the Three Lions – as he already has caps for Norway – but we may well see him in England one day.
In an interview in 2017, he admitted his dream was to win the Premier League with hometown club Leeds.
One step at a time…