Following Erling Braut Håland’s hat-trick heroics for Borussia Dortmund, COPA90 decided to take a look at six other players who enjoyed dream debuts.
23 minutes is all it took for Erling Braut Håland, Borussia Dortmund’s new 19-year-old striker, to score a scintillating hat-trick against Augsburg at the weekend. With BVB trailing 3-1, manager Lucien Favre threw caution to the wind and brought his new £17.1m asset off the bench to devastating effect.
Håland, who was the subject of great interest from Manchester United earlier on in the January transfer window, showed the Red Devils exactly what they were missing out on as he helped turn the game on its head, with Dortmund eventually running out 5-3 winners.
As debuts go, Håland’s was pretty emphatic. So, COPA90 decided to take a trip down memory lane and relive some of football’s greatest debuts. (Spoiler alert: Jonathan Woodgate’s Bernabéu baptism didn’t make the cut…)
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang vs. Augsburg (2013)
While Håland’s hat-trick was undoubtedly brillant, Dortmund fans would be forgiven for thinking they were suffering from a case of déjà vu. That’s because, seven years earlier, another yellow-cladded Dortmund frontman bagged himself a hat-trick against the same team.
For you pedantics out there, this was Aubameyang’s full debut and his first Bundesliga appearance (he had previously run out for an 18-minute cameo in the DFL Supercup against Bayern Munich).
Wayne Rooney vs. Fenerbahce (2004)
For English football fans, the first example that springs to mind when discussing dream debuts is probably Wayne Rooney’s. The then fresh-faced 18-year-old showed no signs of the pressure that comes with being the world’s most expensive teenager as he put Fenerbahce to the sword, netting a hat-trick and laying on another assist.
His exploits meant Rooney became the youngest player to ever hit a hat-trick in the Champions League, and proved to be the start of an iconic career at Manchester United.
Álvaro Recoba vs. Brescia (1997)
The pre-match hype around Recoba’s Inter Milan debut was almost non-existent – mainly due to the fact it also marked Brazilian Ronaldo’s first foray in blue and black. But by the game’s end, all attention was firmly on Recoba.
Introduced off the bench with 19 minutes to spare, the Uruguayan dazzled. His 30-yard piledriver that found the top corner was followed by with a sumptuous free-kick from a similar distance, which would prove to be the winner. Ronaldo who?
Gianluigi Buffon vs. A.C. Milan (1995)
Staying in Italy, we felt compelled to heap praise on one of the all-time greats between the sticks: Gianluigi Buffon. Parma were at the peak of their powers in the mid-90s, and in Buffon, I Crociati had unearthed their latest gem.
At just 17 years of age, against a European powerhouse in Milan, Buffon pulled off a string of miraculous saves to earn his side a clean sheet on his debut. Huge stops to deny Roberto Baggio and George Weah led his opposite number, Dino Zoff, to eulogise that he’d “never seen a debut like his for the personality and quality he showed.”
Romário vs. Real Sociedad (1993)
Linking up with Johan Cruyff and his ‘dream team’ at Barcelona, Romário proved every bit as potent as he’d been for PSV the previous year. A devastating debut hat-trick against Sociedad set the stiker well on the way to his eventual 30-goal tally in LaLiga that season.
Barca would eventually go on to win the league, thanks in no small part to Romário’s excellence, before the Brazilian would help lead his nation to the ‘94 World Cup. It was perhaps his finest single season in a career that brought about 1,000 goals (allegedly).
Fabrizio Ravanelli vs. Liverpool (1996)
Last (but certainly not least) we have Middlesbrough’s very own white feather: Fabrizio Ravanelli. His debut brought about an early Premier League classic as the Italian hit all three of his side’s goals in an epic 3-3 draw with Liverpool.
His time at the Riverside may have been fleeting – and ultimately ended in relegation – but few individual performances are remembered more fondly than Ravanelli's. A mercurial talent at his dazzling best.