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Revisiting the breakthrough goals of 8 modern football stars in the Champions League

How do some modern football giants compare to Haaland
How do some modern football giants compare to Haaland's breakthrough in Champions League?
Sachin Bhat
ANALYST
Modified 24 Feb 2020, 08:20 IST
Top 5 / Top 10
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19-year old Norwegian prodigy Erling Haaland bagged eight goals in the group stages of this season's UEFA Champions League with RB Salzburg, before netting twice again with his new side Borussia Dortmund last week against Paris Saint-Germain.

Haaland's hot streak this season has sent shockwaves across Europe as he's now bracketed with the seasoned professionals of the game. His 10 goals in the Champions League this season currently places him alongside Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski as the highest goalscorer in the continental tournament, and the teenager may well claim the record himself by the end of the campaign, to become one of the youngest ever to achieve such a feat.

As we continue to drool over the next big thing in the sport, let's recollect how some of the modern greats got off in the Champions League:

(Note: Only players still active in the tournament have been considered.)


Also Read: 3 important factors that could decide the race for Ballon d'Or 2020


#8 Karim Benzema vs Rosenborg (2005)

Benzema made an instant impact for Lyon in the Champions League
Benzema made an instant impact for Lyon in the Champions League
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Among all the active players, Karim Benzema has the most goals in the competition after the 'big two' of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, with 64 goals to his name. He burst onto the scene on the European stage way back in 2005 as an 18-year-old talent with Lyon, and consolidated his potential with a confident finish against Rosenborg in his debut Champions League game.

Benzema sneaked in behind the defense after an eye-catching show of pace and leathered the ball in with aplomb for Lyon's opener. That goal etched his name in the record books as the Frenchman became one of the youngest ever scorers in history of the Champions League. Not a bad way to get your goal count up and running in the competition.


#7 Sergio Aguero vs PSV Eindhoven (2008)

Aguero scored his first Champions League goal only nine minutes into his competition debut!
Aguero scored his first Champions League goal only nine minutes into his competition debut!
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Sergio Aguero's record in Europe may not be as stellar as his record in the Premier League, but nevertheless, he made quite a statement on his Champions League debut in 2008 with Atletico Madrid away to PSV Eindhoven.

The Argentine needed just nine minutes to open his account, rounding off a sumptuous effort off Luis Garcia's cross. It has to be one of the fastest debut goals in the competition's history, while he proceeded to add a second just 19 minutes later.


#6 Robert Lewandowski vs Olympiacos (2011)

Lewandowski has been a prolific goalscorer in the Champions League in recent years
Lewandowski has been a prolific goalscorer in the Champions League in recent years

The Polish ace has gone goal-crazy in the Champions League in recent years, but his breakthrough goal came in very sombre circumstances during his Borussia Dortmund days. And that was back in 2011 when he got off the mark in a match against Olympiacos.

Robert Lewandowski nicely controlled a back pass from Mario Gotze just outside the box before firing a low drive from underneath the goalkeeper's dive. Much to his dismay, that goal came in a losing cause as Dortmund were outclassed 3-1, but he has achieved so much personally since then, netting 62 more times to remain hot on the coat-tails of Raul's 71-goals tally.

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#5 Neymar vs Celtic (2013)

Neymar scored a hat-trick on the day he first got on the Champions League scoresheet!
Neymar scored a hat-trick on the day he first got on the Champions League scoresheet!

Unlike everyone else on this list, Neymar's breakthrough in the Champions League produced a wonderful hat-trick, as he stepped up to the plate for Barcelona in the absence of Lionel Messi. Also, the treble was scored within a space of just 14 minutes!

Neymar's opening goal though, was a simple tap-in from barely five yards out as Adriano laid it on the plate for the Brazilian to make the easiest of finishes. He went on to bag two more that night, as Neymar opened his account in the competition in a truly spectacular fashion.


#4 Luis Suarez vs Auxerre (2010)

Suarez
Suarez's first and only goal in the Champions League with Ajax came in 2010

Before he was 'El Pistolero', Luis Suarez was a promising youngster making his bones at Ajax. So naturally, when Champions League football returned to the Amsterdam Arena in 2010 after a gap of four years, he was going to have a say, regardless of how small it turned out to be eventually.

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While he may have fired blanks against Real Madrid and AC Milan, Suarez did manage to get on the Champions League scoresheet in a 2-1 win over French minnows Auxerre, when he skilfully dragged the ball away from the goalkeeper before subtly chipping in from a really tight angle. That goal was a harbinger of many more such heroics to come from the Uruguayan ace.


#3 Kylian Mbappe vs Manchester City (2017)

Mbappe was spectacular against Manchester City in 2017!
Mbappe was spectacular against Manchester City in 2017!

AS Monaco's awe-inspiring campaign of 2016-17 unearthed some top-drawer talents, particularly Kylian Mbappe. The then-17-year-old burst onto the scene that season, especially in the second half of that campaign, somewhere around this time.

Manchester City were taken apart by the Frenchman, who used his electrifying pace to get in behind the defence and blaze a shot into the top corner for his debut goal. Stunning, scintillating and sublime - Mbappe had announced himself on the European stage.


#2 Lionel Messi vs Panathinaikos (2005)

Barcelona
Barcelona's boy wonder took some time to get going, but didn't stop once he did!
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Lionel Messi was unfortunate to have missed Barcelona's maiden European glory of the Champions League era owing to injuries, but he had made his presence felt in the group stages with a goal, his first ever in the competition.

Messi managed to squeeze the ball out from in between two defenders before gliding a few yards inside the box to nudge home his breakthrough goal. It wasn't spectacular, but the Argentine's ability to churn the ball out from tight spaces was something that went on to become associated with him.


#1 Cristiano Ronaldo vs AS Roma (2007)

A 22-year-old Ronaldo made a mockery of a stellar Roma squad
A 22-year-old Ronaldo made a mockery of a stellar Roma squad

Contrary to his blistering form in the competition in recent seasons, Cristiano Ronaldo's beginnings in the Champions League were pretty humble. The Portuguese star was goalless in his first three campaigns with Manchester United, before breaking the deadlock in 2007 against Roma.

The Red Devils thrashed Luciano Spaletti's men 7-1 to wipe out a first-leg deficit, with Ronaldo bagging a brace to open his account in the competition. He hasn't looked back ever since, and now sits atop the charts as the most prolific goalscorer in the competition with 128 goals.

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Also Read: 11 players who have done the World Cup-Champions League double in the same year

Published 24 Feb 2020, 08:20 IST
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