Erling Haaland is an aberration. To watch him in action is to see something remarkable. His combination of strength, speed and application is unprecedented. He is not only quick, powerful and skilful, he appears to possess an uncanny knack of converting chances. Ally McCoist – not a bad judge of the art of goalscoring – describes the manner in which the Norwegian put away one of his goals against Manchester United, somehow arriving at the perfect time in the perfect place to convert Kevin De Bruyne’s sublime pass, like this:
“Haaland is like Inspector Gadget and he presses a button in his body and his leg comes out from nowhere.”
McCoist is right. There is something otherworldly about the Norwegian. He is so good it is as if he has been constructed in the laboratory, an amalgam of all the qualities required to be the most ruthless of finishers. Big, muscular, quick, sharp, intelligent, skilled: it is hard to think of anyone who has had such a combination of attributes before.
Just to witness him in action is to appreciate that he is special. But if you need further evidence of his level of difference it is writ large in the speed he has set about demolishing records. Here are just six that chart the singularity of Erling Haaland.
After scoring 14 goals and three assists in eight Premier League games (not to mention a further three goals in two Champions League matches) he is already, at the start of October, just nine goals away from matching the total of 23 achieved by Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-min that won last season’s golden boot trophy for the most strikes in a Premier League season. And there are 30 league games remaining.
Following his demolition of Manchester United, the notoriously stingy French newspaper L’Equipe awarded Haaland 10 out of 10 in their player ratings. Thus he became only the 13th player to achieve the perfect 10 since the system was first introduced in 1985. The others are:
Six games into his Manchester City career, Haaland matched the achievement of Micky Quinn at Coventry City, which had stood for thirty years, as the fastest player to 10 goals in his debut season. After that breakneck start to secure his record in 1992-93, however, Quinn’s productivity somewhat dwindled: he scored a further seven goals that season. Haaland is showing no signs of slowing down. Particularly as, unlike almost all of his rivals among Premier League strikers, he will benefit from a month-long rest during December when they are all engaged in the World Cup.
What is remarkable about Haaland’s record breaking is that he is not simply bettering previous records, he is splattering them. Given that he is currently scoring at a rate of one goal every 53.8 minutes, it is perhaps no surprise that he now tops the table of the fewest touches per goal since the Premier League began. But it is the scale of his rewriting of football history that is so notable.
His speed off the mark is evident too in the table of the fastest players to record three hat-tricks for their clubs in the Premier League. And it is not as if the others in the table were slouches.
But if you want a comparison with the true greats, the most pertinent is in this table of goals scored by age 22.
Haaland is on course to beat Alan Shearer’s Premier League record of 260 goals on 27 February 2027. When he will be 26, not yet in his prime. Indeed, for the first time in the modern era the real all-time record, Dixie Dean’s 60 league goals achieved in 1926-27, has suddenly become a plausible target. Such was the extraordinary scale of Dean’s achievemnt that delivering the eulogy at his funeral, Bill Shankly said of him: “he belongs in the company of the supremely great, like Beethoven, Shakespeare and Rembrandt”. At the rate he is scoring, Haaland may well one day add his name to that list.