Pep Guardiola's remit in the eyes of many when he joined Manchester City was to provide the club with something others had failed to do: win Europe's top club competition. And, having lifted the trophy twice at Barcelona in 2008/09 and 2010/11, he's a man they trusted to deliver on the objective. So far, he's come up short, but could Erling Haaland be the missing piece in the puzzle?
Haaland, 21, is undoubtedly one of the hottest properties in football. After bursting on the scene at Red Bull Salzburg, scoring twenty-nine in twenty-seven, Borussia Dortmund secured his services, and he’s gone from strength to strength. The Norway international’s record in the Bundesliga is out of this world, and Haaland has bagged eighty-five goals and twenty-three assists from just eighty-eight outings in all competitions.
On signing for Dortmund back in 2020, a release clause which becomes active in the coming weeks was inserted, in preparation for when the 6’4” striker proved himself ready to take the next step in his career. And earlier this week, Manchester City announced that they had informed Dortmund of their intention to trigger the clause, with personal terms agreed and a medical already complete. Now, all attention will turn to City, who have proven themselves more than capable of domestic success but lacking that final bit of quality to conquer Europe.
This season saw City crash out in the Champions League semi-finals after Real Madrid miraculously turned around a two-goal deficit to win the tie in extra time. And, after creating chances, many felt that City needed an out-and-out striker to be on hand to put the ball in the back of the net. Haaland, son of former City player Alf-Inge Haaland, is more than capable of scoring the goals required at the top level, having registered twenty-three strikes in just nineteen Champions League games so far.
Haaland isn’t just physically imposing in terms of his size; he’s athletic, has the pace to get away from defenders and possesses an excellent footballing brain. And, at just twenty-one years old, he’s only going to keep getting better. He could well become one of the greatest ever players, but his arrival is also likely to spell the end for Gabriel Jesus, who is set to leave the Etihad as he wants to be recognised as a club’s first-choice striker.
Haaland’s arrival is also said to be crucial in convincing Guardiola to extend his stay with City. Jurgen Klopp recently penned an extension to his deal with Liverpool, and Guardiola is set to follow suit. You could suggest he has unfinished business in terms of lacking that Champions League trophy with City. And, if Liverpool manage to defeat Real Madrid in this year’s final, the fifty-one-year-old will be even more determined to make his way back to the top of Europe’s top club competition.