Erling Haaland will bolster an already champion Manchester City side but Pep Guardiola may look to address aspects of the forward, which he’s previously faced at Barcelona
Image: Manchester City FC)
Erling Haaland’s signing is a fantastic piece of business by Manchester City.
And not since Didier Drogba arrived at Chelsea from Marseille in 2004 has there been a more exciting signing of a classic centre-forward by a Premier League team. Haaland reminds me of the Ivorian in many ways — he is big, strong, powerful, single-minded and scores goals.
And if he comes out of English football with a similar trophy count to Drogba and has the same impact on his team, he will be more than happy with everything he has achieved. I can’t lavish any higher praise on Haaland and I’m excited to see where the move to the Etihad — 22 years after his dad, Alfie, joined City (which makes it 25-odd years since I chinned him in training at Nottingham Forest, more of which later) — takes him.
There’s no doubt the Premier League will be a leveller because he will be up against quality teams week in, week out. But in a side which creates seven or eight chances a game and has routinely posted 4-0s and 5-0s without a central striker, his addition makes Pep Guardiola’s men overwhelming favourites to retain their title next season.
There’s no doubt that at 6ft plus, being a real athlete and having a real hunger for goals, he will be a massive success at City over a number of years. The only, not negative, but not 100 per cent positive, is that he can be a little over-cocky at times and I wonder if that’s something Guardiola will look to hammer out of him.
That cockiness and the confidence of a Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who he almost seems to model himself on as a fellow monster and machine, will be tested now. Because he is still only a baby, he has plenty to learn, and he’s up against, not a great generation of central defenders, but better and more physical than he’s met at other clubs.
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If he gets it all right and can be a little bit more humble, though, he will be an incredible addition to City and the league, and a lot of that is down simply to his physical attributes. I remember a physio at Crystal Palace, Terje Henriksen, who was Norwegian as well and, funnily enough, Mick Jagger’s physio, too.
He once said that my physique alone would drive me through in the top division with ease, even forgetting my technical attributes, and the same will be true of Haaland. It will give him the chance to lead the line and be a nuisance at all times even when his touch isn’t 100 per cent, and that will enable him to keep scoring goals.
As a centre-forward, that’s all you need to do. I mentioned Alfie earlier and hopefully it won’t be a case of, ‘Like father, like son’, in training. In one session, he raked his studs down my Achilles and I said, ‘Alfie, it’s training, please don’t do that again’.
He did, so I let him know I wasn’t happy a different way. He never did it again. But he was a good lad, Alfie, a very, very solid right-back in a very, very good Forest team. His son, however, has everything it takes to be an exceptional centre-forward in an exceptional City team.