The Dortmund Destroyer: Erling Haaland’s odds for the Champions League Golden Boot drastically slashed after a memorable night at Signal Iduna Park
Every so often, a player comes along and instantly makes a resounding impact in the world of football. We saw it 18 years ago when Cristiano Ronaldo burst onto the scene at Sporting Lisbon, and again two years later when Lionel Messi made his senior bow for Barcelona.
Upon first glance, everyone knew that these young men were special and would go on to achieve incredible things in the game. They have done just that, and more.
Players like Kylian Mbappe and more recently Jadon Sancho have made similar impacts to the game we all love in recent times, and while the pair - aged 19 and 21 respectively - still have a long way to go to be spoken about in the same breath as Messi and Ronaldo when it comes to discussing football’s all-time greats, both have plenty of time to achieve ultimate superiority in the world’s most popular sport.
Now, there is another player entering the realm. The name Erling Braut Haaland was practically unheard of a year ago, but now you would struggle to pick up a newspaper and avoid clocking his name in some sort of boldly-written headline.
He is the teenage superstar who cannot stop scoring, and the man who has now notched ten Champions League goals throughout the first half of his debut season in Europe’s most elite club competition - more than Harry Kane, Mbappe, Ronaldo and Messi.
The Norwegian striker, who cuts an imposing figure with his robust 6ft 4 frame, has risen to prominence this season. Haaland had scored 29 goals in all competitions for RB Leipzig, and, in turn, quickly became one of the most sought after strikers in world football prior to his January switch to Borussia Dortmund.
Pretty much every European heavyweight yearned for his signature when the winter transfer market opened at the start of January - notably Manchester United, who were credited with the strongest interest in him - but, in the end, his fortunes proved to lie across the Austrian border and in Germany with Borussia Dortmund.
Signing for what now looks to be a mere £17m, after Dortmund met the buyout clause laid out by RB Salzburg, Haaland has seemingly gone from strength to strength at his new club. Already, in just seven appearances for BVB - which includes only four starts - the teen has netted 11 goals and provided one assist. They are astonishing stats which just further reiterate the Scandinavians unfathomable talents and frightening potential on the world stage.
During his first outing in the Champions League for Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday night, Haaland would have lined up against opponents Paris Saint-Germain brimming with confidence. Not only has the 19-year-old enjoyed a flawless start to his career in west Germany, but he had also previously scored nine goals in the UCL with former club Salzburg - including a stunning first-half hat-trick against KRC Genk back in early-September which initially put his name on the map.
Indeed, this was not your average teenager, trembling with nerves against star-studded opposition on the biggest stage imaginable; more so a proven goalscorer who was ready to inflict extreme damage on his next victim.
Haaland took just 69 minutes to make his mark on the Champions League whilst wearing yellow, after he opened the scoring with an instinctive finish from close range.
Yet, the best was still to come.
After Neymar’s equaliser six minutes after the hosts’ opener, the Norwegian hit back immediately, rifling a sensational rocket-like shot passed a helpless Keylor Navas into the top-corner of the visitors’ net, which made an incredibly satisfying noise as it was nearly ripped open by a ball resembling an asteroid shooting through space (YouTube it if you haven’t already had the pleasure of watching).
That’s now ten goals for Haaland in Europe this season, for two different clubs, and he does not look like slowing down anytime soon. Currently level with Bayern Munich’s very own goal-addicted freak of nature - Robert Lewandowski - the teenager’s odds to finish the campaign with more goals than anyone else in the Champions League have now been shortened to just 11/4.
He was priced at 80/1 to achieve this back in November.
Lewandowski is still the clear favourite to finish with the most impressive goal haul come May (1/5), and it is difficult to look past the Poland international considering his vast experience in this competition. Dortmund’s very own destroyer has proven that he should not be underestimated at any costs, though, so back it at your peril.