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‘It’s unreal’: NZ goalscorer ranks with Ronaldo, Haaland

A New Zealand-based footballer admitted Friday it felt “unreal” to see his name on a list of top goalscorers for 2023 alongside stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Erling Haaland.

Irishman Garbhan Coughlan, 31, knocked in 42 goals last year as a striker for Christchurch-based club Cashmere Technical, who play in the New Zealand national league.

His tally put him fifth behind Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe, Harry Kane and Haaland on the global list of top scorers for 2023, compiled by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS).

“It’s pretty unreal, to be honest,” he told AFP.

Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo topped the list with 54 goals, followed by France captain Mbappe and England skipper Kane, both on 52, while Manchester City’s Norwegian goal-ace Haaland claimed 50.

While Ronaldo, 38, reached his tally playing for both his Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr and Portugal, with Mbapppe hitting the net for Paris Saint-Germain and France, all of Coughlan’s goals were scored for his club.

The 42 goals include 39 in league games, the most scored last year in a domestic competition. Coughlan’s other three goals came in the national cup.

The star-studded list of names, featuring his own, is sure to eventually be displayed prominently in the Coughlan household.

“I have joked with my partner Hayley about putting it up,” he said. “I’ll frame it along with a jersey and put it on the wall. It’s something to remember forever.”

Coughlan, from Limerick, was a fan of Ronaldo while growing up playing football in Ireland.

He said Haaland, 23, was “as good as it gets” for a striker after the Norwegian superstar scored 40 Champions League goals in his first 35 European games.

“It’s kind of weird,” Coughlan admitted. “Having my name talked about at the same time as theirs — it’s pretty cool.”

After representing Ireland Universities in 2015, an offer came to play in New Zealand. A planned six-month stay became permanent. Coughlan is now his club’s director of football.

He said his 2023 goal haul began with four in Cashmere’s opening game last season.

“That got me off to a good start,” he added.

“I didn’t think much of it as the season went on, you just keep playing.

“Our team manager kept track of the stats, which I looked at from time to time, but never did I think I’d score the most league goals in the world. It’s crazy.”

While rugby is the main sport in New Zealand, football is growing, with around 145,000 registered players in 2022. 

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