Erling Haaland is leaving soccer's greatest in his wake
MANCHESTER, England — It had been a relatively lean spell for Erling Haaland.
That was before his record-equaling five goals in a Champions League game when Manchester City routed Leipzig 7-0 on Tuesday.
Haaland had only scored three goals in his previous nine appearances — by far his worst run of the season — but is now up to 39 in 35 competitive games since joining City last year.
That number might have been higher if not for Pep Guardiola’s decision to substitute him shortly after the hour mark against Leipzig, with a place in the quarterfinals essentially secured.
In doing so, the City manager denied Haaland the chance to set a scoring record in European club soccer’s elite competition and surpass even the great Lionel Messi as the only player to get six goals in one match. Luiz Adriano also scored five.
“If he achieves this milestone at 22, 23, it will be boring his life,” Guardiola joked afterward. “He wouldn’t have a target to reach in the future.”
At this rate, it seems to be only a matter of time before the next record tumbles.
FASTEST TO 30
On Tuesday, Haaland became the fastest player to reach 30 Champions League goals, beating the record held by former Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Van Nistelrooy hit that landmark in his 34th game in the competition. Haaland needed only 25.
Robert Lewandowski did it in 46, Messi in 48, and Neymar in 49 games.
YOUNGEST TO 30
At 22 years, 236 days old, Haaland is the youngest player to score 30 Champions League goals.
He beat the record held by Kylian Mbappé (22 years, 352 days), who had previously surpassed Messi (23 years, 131 days). PREMIER LEAGUE RIVALS
Haaland is now only six goals short of setting a record for the most competitive goals scored in a season by a Premier League player.
Van Nistelrooy and Mohamed Salah share the record, which stands at 44 goals in a single campaign.
Haaland is up to 39 with City having at least 14 more games to play before the end of the season. It could be even more if the Premier League champions advance in the FA Cup and Champions League.
PREMIER LEAGUE RECORD
With 28 goals in the league, Haaland has already exceeded the 23 scored by last season’s Golden Boot winners, Salah and Son Heung-Min.
The Norwegian is six short of the league record of 34 goals scored by Andy Cole in 1994 and Alan Shearer in 1995.
It seems likely that record will fall as well — possibly long before the season concludes.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s best Premier League campaign saw him score 31 goals, while City’s all-time leading scorer, Sergio Aguero, never managed more than 26.
The record in England’s top division is held by Everton forward Dixie Dean, who scored 60 in 1928.
MESSI AND RONALDO
As impressive as Haaland’s numbers are, he may yet fall short of the feats set by Messi and Ronaldo when they were at the height of their powers.
Messi scored a remarkable 73 goals in all competitions for Barcelona in 2011-12, which included 50 in the Spanish league.
Ronaldo scored 61 for Real Madrid in 2014-15.
IS IT ENOUGH?
While Haaland’s goals have seen him set new benchmarks, questions still remain about whether he is the right fit for City.
Despite his scoring feats, the reigning league champions are in danger of giving up their title, with Arsenal five points clear in the standings.
The criticizm is that Haaland makes City too predictable.
The Champions League is the club’s ultimate target and the only major trophy it has failed to win since being taken over in 2008 by the ruling family of Abu Dhabi.
Haaland described scoring as his “super strength” after the match against Leipzig, but Guardiola warned that his striker's scoring powers might not be enough to see City win the European Cup.
“A lot of the time we were out," Guardiola said, "because we conceded a lot.”
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson