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E. Haaland

The greatest goalscorer ever? How Haaland compares to Messi, Ronaldo & the modern greats at 22

2:15 am AEDT 3/10/22
Erling Haaland Lionel Messi Cristiano Ronaldo Kylian Mbappe Karim Benzema
The Manchester City striker could break countless records in his career, but what were the current icons doing at the same stage of their careers?

Goal machine, beast, robot, tremendous Nordic meat shield; the descriptions of Erling Haaland get more and more outlandish, but he Manchester City striker has been nothing short of a phenomenal since his summer switch from Borussia Dortmund to the Premier League.

Haaland has scored 17 goals in his first 11 matches for City, and manager Pep Guardiola has warned that his star striker will only get better.

At just 22, Haaland already has 152 club goals and another 21 for Norway, putting him on course to be one of the all-time great goalscorers.

But where exactly does he rank alongside some legends of the game at this point in his career? GOAL takes a look...

  • Lionel Messi 1999

    Lionel Messi

    When it comes to the greatest players he has ever coached, Guardiola never deviates from naming Messi.

    "[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."

    In terms of goalscoring, though, the Argentine was nowhere near close to Haaland's extraordinary figures at exactly the same age.

    Messi had scored 44 times from 112 appearances for Barcelona, although he spent much of his time as a winger, and had contributed to three La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues.

    It was also the age when he exploded as a goalscorer, netting a ridiculous 628 goals from his next 666 matches for the Spanish giants, and by the age of 23 he had won the Ballon d'Or.

  • Cristiano Ronaldo 2007

    Cristiano Ronaldo

    Like Messi, at Ronaldo was a season away from winning his first Ballon d'Or at the age of 22, though he had already finished as runner-up to Kaka in the battle to be named the world's best footballer.

    He was also mostly being used as a winger at that time, meaning his 50th career goal came shortly before his 22nd birthday in April, while the wait to score the first of his 50 career hat-tricks would last another six months.

    In some ways, however, Ronaldo had a similar career trajectory to Haaland's, as he too decided a move to Manchester was the best way to truly announce himself as a global superstar.

  • Mbappe Haaland

    Kylian Mbappe

    If Messi and Ronaldo dominated the last decade or more, then Haaland and Mbappe will be the strikers to hog the limelight for at least the next 10 years.

    The rivalry has already begun after the Paris Saint-Germain striker mocked Haaland's 'zen' celebration after beating Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League in 2020.

    Mbappe is 18 months older than Haaland, but won the Golden Boy three seasons earlier than his counterpart following a standout year with Monaco, PSG and France in 2017.

    He is currently ahead in terms of total number of club goals, with 208 from 286 appearances at an average of 0.73 goal per game, similar if slightly inferior to Haaland's 0.78.

    It is also very similar when comparing this stage of their careers, with Mbappe having just nine goals fewer than Haaland, albeit from 23 more appearances.

  • Karim Benzema 2009

    Karim Benzema

    The debate over who is the best striker in the world right now is a fierce one, but Benzema's almost-certain Ballon d'Or win in the coming weeks might mean he is best deserving of the crown.

    His superstar status has rocketed late in his career, mostly after coming out of the shadow of Ronaldo, although he has always been a consistent performer.

    At 21, he was monitored by the top clubs in Europe after 66 goals in 148 appearances for Lyon, and Real Madrid beat off competition from Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United for his signing in 2009.

    In his first season at Santiago Bernabeu, though, he managed only nine goals.

    That pales in comparison to this past campaign when, aged 34, his total of 44 goals was comfortably the best of his career.

  • Lewandowski Lech Poznan

    Robert Lewandowski

    There were not too many that saw Lewandowski's huge potential when he was Haaland's age and still plying his trade in Poland

    One person who did was Sam Allardyce, and he tried to bring Lewandowski to Blackburn Rovers in 2010, only for the deal to collapse as Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull erupted and forced all flights in and out of the UK to be suspended.

    Instead, Lewandowski eventually moved to Haaland's former club, Borussia Dortmund, and his career truly took off, winning back-to-back Bundesliga titles and reaching the Champions League final before moving to Bayern Munich.

    But at 22, Lewandowski was still a rising star in Polish football, having scored 21 goals in 32 appearances for second-division side Znicz Pruslow before netting 41 in 82 games for Lech Poznan.

  • Ibrahimovic Ajax

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic

    It may seem like an awfully long time ago, Ibrahimovic was once 22.

    It was at that age that he joined Ajax for a club record £7 million, arriving in Amsterdam as a relatively unknown striker who had a reputation in Sweden as a trouble-maker from his time at Malmo.

    His skills were clear on the pitch and he quickly drew comparisons with Dutch legend Marco van Basten during his four years in the Netherlands, leading to a move to Juventus.

    At 22, he had returned 48 goals from 110 appearances, with his real impact in front of goal would coming later in his career, most notably at AC Milan and PSG.

    Haaland may share the same unwavering confidence as his fellow Scandinavian, and if he can match Ibrahimovic's endurance, he will have some goal tally by the end of his career.

  • Alan Shearer

    Alan Shearer

    Shearer's record of 260 Premier League goals seems almost untouchable, although if he were to stay injury-free for more than a decade, Haaland could well challenge it.

    “I think if he does stick around and does stay fit then I do think he’ll have a chance," Shearer himself has said. "But I think Harry Kane might have something to say about that, because he might have already broken it by then."

    Despite Haaland spending his early years in Norway, Austria and Germany, the challenge is on equal terms as the Premier League only kicked off just two days before Shearer's 22nd birthday.

    It might be a bit early to draw comparisons, but from their first seven appearances, Haaland is ahead by 11 goals to seven. Just another 250 to go if he is to break a record that has been untroubled for 16 years.

  • Aguero Atletico Madrid

    Sergio Aguero

    Haaland may have already easily passed his father Alfie's record of three goals for City, but he's got a long way to go before he reaches Aguero's all-time club record of 260.

    The boyhood City fan can, though, take some confidence from the fact that the Argentine was still at Atletico Madrid and a season away from moving to the Etihad aged 22.

    With an average of 26 goals per season, Haaland's 14 in less than two months would suggest he would pass Aguero's record comfortably if he sticks around for the same length of time.

  • Erling Haaland Norway

    Jorgen Juve

    Born in 1906, Juve remains Norway's all-time leading goalscorer since breaking the record in 1933 against the Ungarne Amateure (Hungarian Amateurs).

    It only seems a matter of time before his tally of 33 goals is broken by Haaland, who already sits eighth on his country's all-time list with 21 from just 23 appearances.

    Surprisingly, Juve had a better strike rate at the same stage, scoring 26 goals in the same number of matches, including four international hat-tricks - twice as many as Haaland.

    Unfortunately, the second half of his career would not go as well, with no goals in his last 14 appearances before his final game aged 27. Haaland will hope he doesn't suffer a similar drop-off.