After his debut hat-trick, Erling Braut Haaland told UEFA.com his Salzburg side want "to be the new Ajax".
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Ahead of his UEFA Champions League debut on Tuesday, Erling Braut Haaland had said: "A childhood dream is coming true." However, even in his wildest dreams he would struggle to have imagined a better start in the world's top club competition.
The 19-year-old found the target inside two minutes against Genk, and had completed his hat-trick (his fourth in nine games this season) before the interval, bowing to the Salzburg fans as they gave him a standing ovation. However, he was reluctant to be drawn on his goalscoring feat as he spoke to UEFA.com after the final whistle, prefering to focus on what Salzburg could go on to achieve.
"We all saw Ajax last year [making it to the semi-finals]; it would be nice to be the new Ajax," he told UEFA.com. "We know there are lots of good teams and that it will be hard, but everything is possible."
Haaland's form in his first games for the club since joining from Molde would seem to be proof of that. "It's unbelievable the run he is on," team-mate Junuzović told UEFA.com. "People said it was easy for him to score in Austria, but wait until he gets on the big stage, then he goes and scores another hat-trick."
Wayne Rooney experienced something similar when he scored three against Fenerbahçe for Manchester United on his competition debut in 2004, and there was a sense in Salzburg on Tuesday that fans were witnessing the start of something extraordinary. "He's going to become one of the best strikers in the world," said team-mate Maximilian Wöber. "He's just phenomenal."
"Positive, energetic, electrifying," is how coach Jesse Marsch described Haaland, who has now hit 17 in nine games for the club this season, and added another record to his fast-growing collection: he is now the youngest player in UEFA Champions League history to score a first-half hat-trick. Back in May, he secured another first, scoring nine for Norway in a single FIFA U-20 World Cup win against Honduras.
However, Marsch insists that the 1.94m-tall Haaland remains grounded. "He works hard and takes nothing for granted," he told UEFA.com. "Of course, he's talented, but when you combine it with his personality, that's what makes him really special. He's only going to get better."
The 6-2 win against Genk was a great start for Salzburg, but Marsch saw the downside too: "It was great that we continued scoring the way we have been, but the two goals we conceded weren't great."
Salzburg may find the going tougher against Liverpool on matchday two when they visit Anfield – where Haaland's father Alf Inge scored for Leeds back in December 1997. "It's not great for us [that Liverpool lost 2-0 to Napoli]; it will be a very different match," the American coach told UEFA.com. "We'll have to be even sharper in all areas and make sure that we show our absolute best performance and mentality. We'll play without fear."