The best Premier League debuts: New Man City hero Haaland, Arsenal's Saliba, Aguero, Ronaldo & more


It would be easy to ask who writes Erling Haaland's scripts after his two goal showing against West Ham got his career as a Manchester City player off to a flier, but this was a debut rooted in a reality we all knew was coming. Haaland is the real deal, and any doubts after he drew a blank against Liverpool were quickly dispelled.

His overall showing against the Hammers was a microcosm of his career to date. His movement is world class when he is losing defenders in the box, he drops deep with ease, his teammates constantly looked for him, and his play with his back to goal is ruthlessly efficient. When he raced onto Kevin De Bruyne's pass in the 65th minute, opened his body, and slotted home with that sledgehammer left foot, the coolness in front of goal that he became famous for in Germany was there for all to see. The sound you heard? Opposition fans the world over collectively cursing his smooth transition.

As a celebration, GOAL has rounded up some of the best Premier League debuts of the last 30 years, starting with the 260 goal record scorer.

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    Alan Shearer (Blackburn vs Crystal Palace, 1992)

    Alan Shearer's place in the Premier League Hall of Fame has long been cemented.

    148 of his 260 top-flight goals were recorded for Newcastle, but arguably his most memorable set came on his debut for Blackburn following a then-British record £3.3m move from Southampton in 1992.

    On the opening day of the newly formed Premier League, Shearer scored two spectacular long-range efforts away at Crystal Palace, and famously commented after the thrilling 3-3 draw: “If you don’t shoot, you don’t score.”

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    Jurgen Klinsmann (Tottenham vs Sheffield Wednesday, 1994)

    Jurgen Klinsmann was one of the first foreign superstars to create a buzz in the Premier League following his £2m switch to Tottenham from Monaco in July 1994.

    The World Cup winner arrived in England with a reputation as a deadly marksman, but was also criticised for his theatrics, which he made light of in his first press conference by asking: "Are there any diving schools in London?” 

    Klinsmann was handed his first appearance for Spurs against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough, and marked the occasion by heading home the winning goal.

    The German nodded in Darren Anderton's pinpoint cross to give the Lilywhites a 4-3 victory, and rubbed salt in Wednesday's wounds by celebrating with a dive in front of the home supporters.

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    Fabrizio Ravanelli (Middlesbrough vs Liverpool, 1996)

    Fabrizio Ravanelli moved to Middlesbrough on the back of lifting the European Cup with Juventus, and quickly showed that his £7m price tag would be a bargain.

    The Italian scored three goals on his debut against Liverpool, all equalisers, as his team earned a 3-3 draw with the Merseyside club.

    Ravanelli's hat-trick goal was the pick of the bunch as he set himself in the box before producing an expert finish into the bottom left-hand corner of the net - and the celebrations that followed would never be forgotten by the fans that were in attendance at the Riverside that day.

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    Ruud van Nistelrooy (Man Utd vs Fulham, 2001)

    Ruud van Nistelrooy had to wait a year before completing his dream move to Manchester United after suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury, but he quickly made up for lost time after completing his £19m ($23m) transfer from PSV in August 2001.

    The Dutchman took his bow against Fulham at Old Trafford, and initially watched on in horror as Louis Saha struck twice to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.

    Van Nistelrooy's moment came in the 51st minute as he produced an inch-perfect dinked finish to draw the Red Devils level, and two minutes later he showed off his poaching instincts again to score the winner - becoming a new cult hero in the process.

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    Cristiano Ronaldo (Man Utd vs Bolton, 2003)

    Cristiano Ronaldo famously moved to United from Sporting CP after impressing Sir Alex Ferguson in a pre-season friendly.

    Several members of his squad urged the Scottish coach to sign Ronaldo after he repeatedly sprinted past John O'Shea on the left wing while showing off his dazzling dribbling ability.

    United supporters were treated to those skills up close on August 16, 2003, as the Portugal star came off the bench for an electrifying cameo in a 4-0 victory against Bolton.

    Ronaldo won a penalty shortly after coming on for David Beckham in the 61st minute, and he proceeded to terrorise the Bolton defence until the final whistle.

    The forward played a key role in Ryan Giggs' second goal of the game and embarked on several mazy runs that ended with United squandering clear chances, prompting United legend George Best to remark after the game: "It was undoubtedly the most exciting debut performance I’ve ever seen."

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    Federico Macheda (Man Utd vs Aston Villa, 2009)

    Federico Macheda was an unheralded inclusion in Sir Alex Ferguson's squad for a crucial fixture against Aston Villa in April 2009 as United closed in on a third successive title. But by the time the match ended, the youngster had been immortalised by the Old Trafford faithful.

    The Red Devils were 2-1 down when the Italian was introduced to the action with 30 minutes left.

    Ronaldo equalised in the 80th minute to lift the crowd, and Macheda had the final say with only seconds remaining before full-time.

    The 17-year-old, who had previously impressed in United's academy ranks, produced a superb Cruyff turn after receiving a pass from Giggs on the edge of the box, wrong-footing Luke Young in the process.

    Macheda was still some 20 yards out and only had the top right-hand corner of the net to aim at, but he found his spot in expert fashion with a magical curling effort, sparking wild scenes of celebration at the Theatre of Dreams.

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    Danny Rose (Tottenham vs Arsenal, 2010)

    Tottenham hadn't recorded a Premier League win over Arsenal for over a decade when Danny Rose was handed his first start for the club in the north London derby on April 14, 2010.

    It only took the English full-back 10 minutes to make his mark as he scored a spectacular goal-of-the-season contender from 30 yards out.

    Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia appeared to have cleared the danger when he got good contact on a punch from an out-swinging corner, but Rose took the high ball first time on the volley with all the confidence of a 19-year-old eager to prove his worth.

    His shot flew past Almunia and the White Hart Lane crowd went into delirium, with Spurs ultimately going on to win the match 2-1 as Gareth Bale also put his name on the scoresheet.

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    Sergio Aguero (Manchester City vs Swansea, 2011)

    City won the race to sign Sergio Aguero ahead of a host of top European clubs in 2011, agreeing a £35m ($43m) deal with Atletico Madrid which would prove to be a steal.

    The Argentine became the Manchester club's all-time record scorer over the next decade, with 184 of his 260 goals coming in the Premier League - the third-best tally in the competition's history.

    Aguero gave City fans a tantalising taste of what was to come on his debut against Swansea, scoring with a trademark poacher's finish shortly after being introduced as a substitute on the hour mark.

    He then provided an assist for David Silva before rounding off a 4-0 victory for City with a superb long-range strike, beating Swansea keeper Michael Vorm at his far post.

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    Anthony Martial (Man Utd vs Liverpool, 2015)

    Anthony Martial arrived at United from Monaco on September 1, 2015, without much professional experience and a huge transfer fee to justify.

    The club's decision to fork out a fee of £35m on a 19-year-old, which could potentially rise to £58m ($71m) in performance-related add-ons, was seen as a huge gamble, but the Frenchman silenced his doubters in his maiden outing.

    Martial's debut came against Liverpool, and he was thrown in at the deep end in the 65th minute of a tense contest at Old Trafford.

    A Daley Blind effort had given the hosts the lead, and Ander Herrera doubled their advantage from the penalty spot shortly after Martial's introduction, only for Christian Benteke to haul Liverpool back into the game with a spectacular overhead kick.

    The stage was set for Martial, who picked the ball up on the left wing with four minutes of normal time remaining and charged towards the box. He left Martin Skrtel bamboozled with a clever drop of the shoulder and fired cooly past goalkeeper Simon Mignolet to seal a 3-1 win.

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    Odsonne Edouard (Crystal Palace vs Tottenham, 2021)

    Crystal Palace signed Odsonne Edouard on the final day of the 2021 summer transfer window, with the Eagles seeing off competition from a number of clubs to sign the prolific Celtic striker.

    The former France U21 international had scored 86 goals in 179 games for the Hoops, but some critics had reservations over whether he would be able to replicate that form in English football.

    Edouard was only given six minutes to impress in his first outing for Palace as he came on for Christian Benteke with the home side 1-0 up against Tottenham thanks to a Wilfred Zaha penalty.

    He managed to score just 28 seconds after coming on, picking up a Zaha cross just inside the box and firing low into the bottom corner.

    Deep into stoppage time, Edouard pounced again to finish smartly from close range after being teed up by Conor Gallagher, wrapping up a comfortable London derby win and instantly earning a place in the hearts of Palace supporters.

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    William Saliba (Arsenal vs Crystal Palace, 2022)

    It had been a long time coming for William Saliba. Three years of hearing the whispers he wasn't good enough, constantly being asked when he was going to make his Premier League debut for Arsenal, and privately wondering if he ever would.

    Anyone who saw his assured performances for Marseille in 2021/22 where he racked up over 3000 minutes on the pitch may not have been surprised by his Arsenal debut against Crystal Palace on the opening day of the 22/23 Premier League season, but plenty more watching would have raised an eyebrow at the stature of his showing. There were long periods where the Eagles had the Gunners under the pump, but Saliba withstood the barrage, dealt with anything in the air, and on the floor showed speed, positional awareness, and a touch of class when asked to play out.