Dortmund's Erling Haaland celebrates scoring against Schalke
Dortmund's Erling Haaland celebrates scoring against Schalke

Erling Haaland: Comparing Borussia Dortmund striker with Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and assessing his next move

Erling Braut Haaland is one of the most talked about strikers in world football and rightly so.

And so it will have surprised no-one when after all of the build-up to the return of the Bundesliga, it was he who scored its first goal of the new, behind-closed-doors era.

Fans or no fans, Haaland knows where the back of the net is.

That near-guarantee has meant the teenager has, quite incredibly, already made three transfers in a professional career that only started in 2015 - yes he was playing in the Bryne first-team at just 15-years-old.

Such has his impact been in a few short months in Dortmund that he is already the subject of near constant speculation about where his fourth move in a little over four seasons will be.

Just how good is the Norwegian, and do his stats stack up against the best?

The new Zlatan

Erling Haaland with the match ball after his hat-trick
Erling Haaland with the match ball after his debut Champions League hat-trick for Red Bull

While 16 goals in 30 matches during his final season in Norwegian football, where he was managed by Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, was impressive, Haaland's impact at Red Bull Salzburg and Borussia Dortmund is what has catapulted him into the limelight.

In particular it was a hat-trick for Red Bull against Genk on his Champions League debut that really set heads turning.

He has now netted 41 times in 34 appearances for Red Bull and Dortmund this term.

Erling Braut Haaland stats

  • Bryne: 16 games | 0 goals
  • Molde: 50 games | 20 goals
  • Red Bull Salzburg: 27 games | 29 goals
  • Borussia Dortmund: 12 games | 13 goals

TOTAL: 105 games | 62 goals

The comparison his performances yielded was natural and obvious, after all how many world class 6ft-plus Scandinavian strikers have their been?

Then there's the fact Haaland has a touch of the Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrogance about him, has spoken about the Swede being a hero of his growing up and they're both managed by super-agent Mino Raiola.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic retired from Sweden in 2016
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored 62 goals in 116 games for Sweden

When Erling Braut was handed to his father, former Leeds United and Manchester City midfielder Alfinge Haaland, in the delivery room in Leeds on July 21, 2000, Zlatan was closing in on his 19th birthday and already established in the Malmo first team.

Fast forward 12 months, and while baby Haaland was probably making his first failed attempts at walking instead of crawling, his future hero had just left Sweden for Dutch giants Ajax.

He was almost exactly the same age Erling Haaland is now.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic stats up to 20th birthday

  • Malmo: 47 games | 18 goals
  • Ajax: 11 games | 4 goals

TOTAL: 58 games | 22 goals

Haaland and Ibrahimovic are incomparable in the early part of their careers, with the Norwegian playing far more, scoring far more and garnering much more publicity - the latter is particularly hard to imagine given that we're talking about Zlatan.

The Swede was merely in the infancy of his time at Ajax when he was Erling's age, but it would ultimately be the launchpad for what has been an incredible career.

More than 500 goals for club and country, spells with Juventus, Inter, Barcelona, Milan, PSG, Manchester United and lest we forget LA Galaxy - and he's still going strong back in what's his third spell at the San Siro.

Haaland has a long way to go if he's to come anywhere close to matching his idol's achievements.

Away from the footballing CV, in terms of style of play the duo share few characteristics beyond the superficial and obvious.

They are barely more similar than Uruguayan pair Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, two great strikers of pure contrast, whose comparisons would be primarily based on geography too.

The best since Ronaldo?

Brazil's forward Ronaldo celebrates at 2002 World Cup
Brazil's forward Ronaldo celebrates at 2002 World Cup

The modern striker that provides the best tool for comparison with Haaland is Brazil’s Ronaldo - 'El Fenomeno'.

Thanks in no small part to his Portuguese namesake Cristiano, the South American's impact on the footballing world when he burst on to the scene in the mid-to-late '90s has been far too easily forgotten.

And his phenomenal performances at successive World Cups, winning the Golden Ball for best player at France 98 and the Golden Boot for top scorer in Japan & South Korea four years later, is another momentous achievement that isn't talked about enough.

Instead, a dramatic incident before that 1998 final defeat by France, when he suffered convulsions and lost consciousness in the changing room, that saw him initially left off the team sheet, is sadly what history remembers Ronaldo for more.

While he and Erling Braut Haaland could scarcely look more different in an identity parade, their styles and careers are strikingly similar.

Both physical beasts, all pace and power, bulldozing their way through opponents as if they weren't there. It took a viral social media clip to show the world just how fast the young Norwegian is, a facet of his game that up to that point had been overlooked.

One thing I would have to say is that Ronaldo was undoubtedly more skilful. The Samba style you'd expect from any Brazilian forward oozed from his every pore.

That was on top of, like the new kid on the block, being simply impossible to stop once he'd built up a head of steam.

Ronaldo stats up to 20th birthday

  • Cruzeiro: 44 games | 47 goals
  • PSV: 57 games | 54 goals
  • Barcelona: 5 games | 5 goals

TOTAL: 106 games | 106 goals

The start Haaland has made to his career has been exceptional, but placing his statistics side by side with Ronaldo's is frightening, exposing a stark gap to emphasise just how good the Brazilian was.

Ronaldo would go on to score 47 goals in 49 games during his solitary season at Barcelona before making a world record £18m move to Inter Milan.

Four years, four clubs - sound familiar?

And that is why any suggestion of Haaland quickly moving on from Dortmund being no more than paper talk can quickly be put to bed.

Yes, in 1997 Barca weren't the European powerhouse that they are today but they were still one of the biggest clubs in the world, and certainly more of a force than Dortmund.

And Ronaldo, arguably the best player in the world at the time, left after just one season.

Next stop for Erling?

Erling Haaland celebrates his hat-trick goal
Erling Haaland celebrates his hat-trick for Dortmund

The ongoing disruption to the football season caused by the coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly made Haaland's prospects of a summer move, like many others, less likely.

But any player who has Mino Raiola managing their future is unlikely to stay out of the headlines.

Real Madrid and Barcelona stick out as the most likely destinations, with both teams possessing ageing forward lines and in need of sizeable investment to keep pace with their European rivals.

Before the book was closed at the onset of football's enforced break, Real were 11/4 favourites to sign the Norwegian with Barcelona next in the list at 15/2.

Haaland has inevitably been linked with Manchester United having worked under compatriot Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Molde, so they completed the top three at 10/1.

But I'd keep your money in your pocket there.

Not only does Haaland's agent have a fractious relationship with Old Trafford that has only intensified during Paul Pogba's injury-disrupted current campaign, but United are expected to spend big on one of his Dortmund team-mates this summer.

Some bookies have England winger Jadon Sancho at 1/4 to move to Manchester United before September 1, and that will be a £100m-plus deal.

In all likelihood Haaland might now have to wait until 2021 to make his next move, but with a release clause thought to be worth just £63m he could be the bargain of the summer for someone.

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