Gary Neville has fired an ominous warning to Manchester City and the rest of the Premier League over the future of Erling Haaland as their Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid looms on the horizon.
The striking Viking smashed in yet another record on Wednesday night as he scored his 35th Premier League goal of the campaign during their 3-0 win over West Ham. That goal, his 51st of the season in all competitions, sees him outscore both Andy Cole and Alan Shearer for most goals in a single Premier League season. Tellingly, Cole and Shearer’s marks, though, were set in 42-game seasons.
With Dixie Dean’s all-time record of 60 goals now in his sights, there is now preventing just how good Haaland can be.
As a result, links to the likes of Real Madrid are rarely far away. That said, reports on Wednesday claimed they were instead setting sights on one of his teammates instead.
Despite all that, Neville is not thinking of anything other than just how good Haaland can be. And the pundit is adamant there is more to come from the player.
His latest goal came after a sublime chip over Lukasz Fabianski and following a lovely throughball from Jack Grealish.
However, speaking to Sky Sports, Neville believes the 22-year-old – still in his debut season – can score even more. And he says that if his City teammates managed to see more of his runs he makes.
Haaland is being ignored by City, Neville warns
Discussing how he can further improve, Neville reckons that is down to the players around him.
“He scores more goals than he has touches,” he said. “We’ve barely seen him for half an hour, his team-mates ignore most of his runs. If they didn’t do that then he really would be dangerous.”
Neville now comes up against hometown team Leeds United on Saturday before they travel to face Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on Tuesday.
They will need to be at their best to overcome the reigning European champions, but Neville is backing Haaland to pass the acid test.
“Sometimes you watch a footballer and think it’s a once in a lifetime type. There’s your world-class types and then there’s another level, which is where Haaland is at. We very rarely see these players come to the Premier League in their prime. What he has brought to this Man City team is something else.
“They are so much better to watch with him in this team. It means they can now be great at the perfect football (nice passes and goals) and the imperfect football (the high intensity and pressing). He doesn’t fit into the ideology of Pep Guardiola football. He doesn’t drop deep, he’s not a false number nine and he’s sometimes a bit clumsy with the ball at his feet. He’s phenomenal. It’s breathtaking to see a player with such speed. He’s everything you want to see in a centre forward.”
Guardiola tribute to Haaland
Neville continued: “He makes them [City] so much more dangerous. But the big test, the acid test is coming. This is your moment. You’ve done incredibly well but everyone is going to remember what you do in these next two games because you’ve been brought here to win the Champions League.
“That’s not applying pressure to him, that’s the reality. They couldn’t get over the line last year against Real Madrid. This is his moment, the next two or three weeks. He’s got to deliver and I think he will.”
Guardiola himself paid tribute to the player after he reached his latest mark.
“Incredible,” he told BBC Sport. “He’s just 22 – and still has five games left.
“How many games did I take him off after a hat-trick in 60 minutes? Maybe he’d have scored more. But maybe he’d have got injured. He’s special. Congratulations to him.
“We expected him to score goals but to break Cole and Shearer’s records… I’m pretty sure what he wants is to win the Premier League. We have one game in hand but still just one point in front. We have to keep going and recover well.”