Erling Haaland smashed scoring records and had a strike rate at better than a goal every 90 minutes during his two-and-a-half years at Borussia Dortmund, cementing his reputation as one of the finest forwards every to grace the Bundesliga stage.
1) Debut hat-trick
Haaland signed for Dortmund in the January 2020 transfer window after making waves at Red Bull Salzburg in Austria. And the momentum didn’t stop once it crossed the German border as the then 19-year-old simply kept on surfing.
Coach Lucien Favre said Haaland has “something special”, while teammates said BVB hadn’t had a striker like him in some time – and that was before he’d even kicked a ball competitively.
That moment would come on 18 January as Dortmund kicked off their 2020 away at Augsburg. It wasn’t exactly going to plan for the visitors, who found themselves 3-1 down after 55 minutes. Enter Haaland. Three minutes and three touches later, he buried his first shot for the club. Next shot, same result, and Borussia were 4-3 up only 14 minutes after his introduction.
No surprises what happened with his third attempt on goal. Three out of three after just 23 minutes and 10 touches on a Bundesliga pitch, and the ball was going home with him.
Admittedly he was the seventh player to score a Bundesliga hat-trick on debut, but nobody had ever previously done so as a substitute.
“Good” was how Haaland modestly described his first game for Dortmund. He’d go on to bag braces in his second and third outings as well. No player before had ever scored seven goals in their first three Bundesliga appearances. He also won the January Player of the Month award, despite being on the pitch for less than an hour, but still bagged five goals.
2) Four-goal haul
Thirteen goals in 15 games from his first half season in the Bundesliga was then followed by six in six at the start of 2020/21. The sight of Haaland scoring for Dortmund was now a common one, but he enjoyed perhaps his finest individual hour – actually, not even an hour, more like 32 minutes – when he smashed four in the second half away at Hertha Berlin on Matchday 8.
On the day he was announced as the Golden Boy for 2020 as Europe’s best U21 player, he made light work of a 1-0 half-time deficit in the capital, scoring twice in the first four minutes after the restart. It was three in the space of a quarter hour when he made it 3-1 on 62 minutes.
Haaland then had a fourth only 32 minutes after he’d got his first to round off the 5-2 win and make it 23 goals in 22 Bundesliga appearances for Borussia, surpassing Uwe Seeler’s league record of 20 after the same number of games from the division’s inaugural season in 1963/64.
The striker put it down to having an energy drink at half-time, but it wasn’t actually the fastest four-goal haul of his career. That came in the first 21 minutes of a 4-0 win over league leaders Brann for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Molde in the 2018 Norwegian Eliteserien. Still, proof of just how quickly he can take apart defences.
3) DFB Cup final brace
Haaland won the Austrian league and cup double during his time at Salzburg, but it’s quite rare for a player’s personal accolades to outnumber what he’s won with his teams. He’s been named Europe’s Golden Boy, Austrian Footballer of the Year, Norwegian Sportsperson of the Year, won the FIFA U20 World Cup Golden Boot, several Bundesliga Player and Rookie of the Month honours and also the 2020/21 Bundesliga Player of the Season. Just to name a few.
Personal glory and the numerous records he broke for Dortmund would have felt somewhat hollow if he’d ended his time at the Signal Iduna Park without a trophy. So, he can be proud that he stepped up when it mattered in the 2021 DFB Cup final.
He and Jadon Sancho took RB Leipzig apart in Berlin, both scoring twice. Haaland’s second put paid to any potential comeback after the opposition had brought it back to 3-1. His only trophy in black and yellow, ending the club’s four-year wait for silverware. A brace on the final Bundesliga matchday against Bayer Leverkusen saw him end 2020/21 with 41 goals from as many appearances in all competitions.
4) That derby volley
Haaland may have scored four times against Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, but he also lost all four games. He got four in two league wins against Leipzig, while he netted in all three derby encounters with Schalke. And one of those was perhaps his best and most memorable in a BVB shirt.
We’re not talking about the one in the 4-0 home win on 16 May 2020, although that goal was famous for being the first scored in the Bundesliga following the restart of the 2019/20 campaign.
No, we mean the one in the following season. A seemingly gravity-defying scissor-kick to smash home Sancho’s floated ball into the penalty area.
“A nice goal” was what the always understated striker said of it. Captain Marco Reus echoed more what most people were thinking: “His goal was sensational.”
The occasion and brilliance of the finish mean it will probably be the goal he’s most remembered for in Dortmund.
5) Champions League top scorer
No Dortmund player had ever been the top scorer in the UEFA Champions League/European Cup – not even when they won it in 1996/97 – until Haaland came along.
He seems to thrive on the continental stage and has 25 goals from only 20 appearances in the Champions League. Ten of those came in his first full season with BVB, smashing six in the first four group games before injury ruled him out of the final two.
He then almost single-handedly steered his team past Sevilla in the last 16, scoring two (and setting up the third) in a 3-2 first-leg win before another brace back at the Signal Iduna Park guaranteed Borussia’s progress with a 2-2 draw. It saw him become the fastest and youngest player to reach 20 Champions League goals, doing so in only 14 matches and only seven months after his 20th birthday.
It also made him the first player to score more than one goal in four straight Champions League appearances. Eventual runners-up Manchester City were the only team to stop him in the quarter-finals, but he still had double figures from only eight games.
It worked out at a goal every 70.5 minutes, putting away 38.5 per cent of his shots, to finish as the competition’s top scorer. He was then also named the 2020/21 Forward of the Season in the Champions League. His place in Borussia Dortmund history secure.