Manchester City’s new signing Erling Haaland is a “monster” who will make a considerable impact this season in England.
This is how fellow recruit Stefan Ortega described Haaland when he was unveiled to City followers at Etihad Stadium.
Ortega witnessed the Norwegian striker’s goalscoring exploits in the Bundesliga where the German keeper was at Arminia Bielefeld and Haaland starred for Borussia Dortmund.
“When I saw him at (Red Bull) Salzburg he was a bit thin, now he’s a monster,” said Ortega, 29. “His transition is really outstanding.
“With his size, speed, quality in shooting and heading, he’s the full package …”
Haaland netted 85 goals in 88 games after joining Dortmund from Salzburg in 2020, with 61 in 66 Bundesliga games, and a further 15 in 13 Champions League matches.
For the opposition, there is likely to be some trepidation on how to handle this 1.95-meter prolific powerhouse as City, with four Premier League titles over the past five seasons, and 99 goals, start their title-defending campaign.
Haaland, who turns 22 later this month, said he “had the feeling for City” when he decided to join them on a five-year deal for $61 million, despite interest from Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
“In the end I just had the feeling in my stomach — the way they play, everything,” he added.
“I (have) watched City ever since Pep Guardiola took over in 2016, so I know exactly how they play and I think I know a lot about everything they do, so that is the most important thing.
“I played against City in the Champions League and (when) you see something on TV (that’s one thing), but when you meet it in reality it’s completely different. I didn’t touch the ball for 25 minutes. I was like, ‘please (Ilkay) Gundogan stop playing tiki-taka.’
“It’s a different level, how City create chances, and that’s what I want to be a part of,” said Haaland. “There are so many good players. City are already winners and it’s already a huge potential, I am really excited.”
Haaland’s arrival, and immediate declaration that Manchester United are the team he is keen to face most next season, certainly excited the thousands who welcomed him on Sunday.
So too Argentina forward Julian Alvarez, who vowed to “create my own history and win all the trophies possible” as he followed compatriots such as Carlos Tevez, Pablo Zabaleta and legendary record scorer Sergio Aguero to the club.
Along with Ortega and England midfielder Kalvin Phillips — the $54 million buy from Leeds who missed the unveiling event through illness — the quartet, and probably Brighton left-back Marc Cucurella, are part of an important evolution at City.
Manager Guardiola is building another monstrous outfit as he looks to make them even more formidable.
As footballing history has often shown, when a team takes success for granted and does not seek to maintain their standing with quality replacements, it can lead to a painful fall from grace.
Take Liverpool who, having been a dominant force in English and European football in the 1970s and 1980s, had to wait 30 years before they won a top-flight title when Jurgen Klopp’s side won the Premier League in 2020.
Then there is Manchester United, whose trophy-laden era under Sir Alex Ferguson feels a distant memory as they currently struggle to challenge for the top four, let alone first place.
It was in 2013 when they last won the Premier League and their main player purchases in the following two transfer windows, under Ferguson’s replacement David Moyes, were Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata.
When Guardiola took charge of City in 2016 and disappointingly failed to lift a trophy in his first season, the response was swift to alleviate concerns about the future.
Out went favorites such as Zabaleta, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy, Aleksandar Kolarov, Jesus Navas and in came keeper Ederson, Bernardo Silva, Kyle Walker and Aymeric Laporte.
It was a vital reset as Guardiola improved areas that clearly needed strengthening, and reinvigorated a squad with players who embraced a new challenge and craved success.
City then won the title in 2018 with a record-breaking 100 points.
There is a similar feel about this season as the club have allowed heroes to leave, but brought in replacements who could take them to an even higher level.
Having bade farewell to captain Fernandinho after nine years, from their title-winning side, striker Gabriel Jesus has joined Arsenal, Raheem Sterling is heading to Chelsea and Nathan Ake and Oleksandr Zinchenko could exit before next month’s opening fixtures.
Over at Anfield, Kop idol Sadio Mane has gone to Bayern Munich, but Uruguay striker Darwin Nunez has joined for a potential club record £85 million and, crucially, Mohamed Salah has extended his contract.
“There can be no standing still, on or off the pitch,” said Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson when they were still pushing for a “quadruple” last season.
It is a philosophy adopted by both the Reds and City as they strive to remain the very best while others, notably Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal, try to catch up.
This type of thinking is also a factor in Haaland’s switch to a club where his father Alf-Inge Haaland, a former midfielder, played.
He yearns for more, despite his impressive scoring record, two Austrian League championships and an Austrian Cup with Salzburg, and a German Cup with Dortmund.
Haaland seeks glory in the Champions League, where he has the best minutes per goal ratio in the tournament’s history for those with at least 15, scoring on average every 64 minutes while it is 104 minutes for Lionel Messi and Harry Kane.
At 20 years and 231 days, he also took Kylian Mbappe’s record as the youngest player to reach 20 Champions League goals, becoming the only one to do so before the age of 21.
“Sometimes I see players pose with a trophy and I say, ‘I would love to be you,’” said Haaland.
“Every footballer wants to win trophies and become better every single day. I said it before, the Champions League is my favorite competition. Let’s keep working hard and hopefully I will win some trophies.”
Haaland said that City have now signed a player who likes to “have fun and smile a lot,” and whose enjoyment is reflected in a desire to score goals, improve himself and the team.
With such astonishing numbers already, and confidence and ambition that belie his years, City’s rivals must beware of this smiling assassin and ready-made successor to Aguero.
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