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How Does Erling Haaland’s Season Compare to Other Borussia Dortmund Legends?

Haaland’s performance this year is up there with the very best.

Borussia Dortmund v Sevilla FC - UEFA Champions League Photo by Marc Nyemeyer/DAX Images/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Erling Haaland is a phenomenal player. I know it, you know it, every scout in Europe and every internet writer eager for clicks knows it. But how does he compare to all the great talents that have suited up in black and yellow over the years? I don’t have a great grasp on BVB’s historical numbers, so I thought I’d take the time today to take a look at Haaland’s numbers from this season and place them in the context of some other great seasons from Borussia Dortmund’s history.

To do this, I compiled the scoring records of each of BVB’s top goalscorers from 1989 to the present day (data used does not include the Hertha Berlin game, not that it really matters), the farthest back that provides data on goals and minutes played. Unfortunately, FB Ref doesn’t provides data on assists prior to 2000, so I don’t have a complete picture, but I can assure you that if they were available, they probably wouldn’t affect the outcome of this article. What I found was, for the most part, unsurprising, with the exception of a few surprises. So without any further ado, let’s begin.

How Erling Haaland Compares to Other Top BVB Goalscorers

Even if the season were to end today, Erling Haaland’s performance this year would be one of the best in the club’s recent history. He currently has 19 league goals, which would be the seventh-highest total for Borussia Dortmund since 1989, sitting only behind Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and tied with Stephane Chapuisat’s goal tally in 1992.

This chart shows the goal total of the top goalscorer from every BVB season since 1989. As you can see, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s 2016-17 season holds the club record for the most goals in a single season. According to Wikipedia, this record is tied with Lothar Emmerich, the only other BVB player to score 31 goals in a single season, way back in 1966. With only 9 games remaining, Haaland would need to score 12 goals to tie this record.

Assuming he is able to stay healthy, Haaland should easily blow by both Lewandowski and Chapuisat, but he faces an uphill battle to better Aubameyang’s 2016-17 season. As I’ll demonstrate below, the rate at which Haaland is scoring should have been enough to beat Aubameyang, but unfortunately his injury in December has left this possibility in doubt, and obscured just how exceptional a season he is having. If you compare the same player-seasons in terms of goals/90, it becomes clear just how dominant Haaland has been this season.

At this point, I have a confession to make. This is the point of the article where I was supposed to show you how Erling Haaland has scored goals at a higher rate this season than any BVB striker since 1989, and use it as justification for an argument that Haaland is going to be a generational player who will probably surpass any player that has ever worn black and yellow... but then I actually ran the code, and... uh...

So, yeah, it turns out that Paco Alcacer might have had the most productive season of any BVB player, at least since 1989. While I remember Paco being great, with his many clutch performances coming off the bench earning him a reputation as a “super-sub”, I had no idea just how productive he actually was, even compared to other great seasons in the club’s history. It’s nothing short of remarkable that he was able to lead the team in goals despite playing fewer than 1200 minutes in a season. While you might consider 1200 minutes to be a small sample size, he was still able to outscore everyone on the team; a pretty remarkable achievement. It’s a shame he can’t get more minutes with Villareal, or an even bigger club where he can gain the recognition he deserves.

Anyway, back to Erling Haaland. With Paco Alcacer being the exception, Haaland has scored goals at a better pace than every single player in the last 30 years. That includes every one of Robert Lewandowski’s seasons, and even includes Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s incredible season under Thomas Tuchel in 2016-17. If Haaland hadn’t missed five games in December, he would easily be on pace to beat Aubameyang’s record.

Another thing to consider is that Haaland isn’t just a goalscorer. While his signature move is his hammer of a shot, his hold-up play and passing inside the box are underrated as well. Using the same method as above, I plotted Borussia Dortmund’s leading goal contributor (goals + assists/90) for each season since 2000 (due to data limitations).

Once again, Haaland dominates other recent club superstars like Lewandowski, Reus, and Aubameyang, but he falls just below a more surprising player. As it turns out, Jadon Sancho’s season last year was the single most productive year for any BVB player as far back as the data exists. And unlike Paco Alcacer, his production can’t be dismissed as a small sample size or because of his role as a super sub.

I think that Sancho’s 2020 season has gone a little bit under the radar. While many in Dortmund and in the media praised Sancho’s efforts, few people seem to have realized just how insanely productive he was, and how unprecedented his scoring rates were. I know I didn’t realize it!

Sorry, I’ve diverged from my main point once again. As you can see, Erling Haaland’s offensive output outpaces nearly every other player that has played for Borussia Dortmund in my lifetime. It’s crazy that when we consider some of the greatest seasons of the past decade, from the trophy-winning years in 2011 and 2012, the Champions League run in 2013, and the Thomas Tuchel Era, no players come particularly close to the two young stars who currently play for the club.

If you take anything away from this article, it should be that BVB have two players on their current roster that aren’t just elite, or budding prospects that will one day dominate football. They’re record-breaking, world class players at this very moment. With the constant transfer rumors circling around these two, BVB fans should cherish every moment that they’re suiting up in black and yellow.