Pep Guardiola insists people can say what they like about Erling Haaland after the Manchester City boss responded to claims that the Norwegian superstar has a clause in his contract granting him a Real Madrid transfer in 2024.
The 22-year-old moved to the Etihad over the summer in a £51m deal from Borussia Dortmund in what is already looking like one of best buys of all time. And Haaland has not stopped scoring since, wracking up three successive hat-tricks in his last three Premier League games.
He was also on the scoresheet twice more on Wednesday night as FC Copenhagen were put to the sword 5-0 in the Champions League. That takes Haaland’s tally to 19 goals in just 11 appearances this season. His crazy statistics are anaylsed in full right here.
Sadly for Haaland he was denied the chance of a fourth hat-trick of the season when Guardiola subbed him at half-time. That gave Cole Palmer 45 minutes to prove himself under the Etihad lights.
But all the talk was once again about Haaland with his double taking him to 28 goals in total in the Champions League. That record accounts for his tallies at both RB Salzburg and Borussia Dortmund, as well as City.
Those 28 strikes take him above both Barcelona legend Rivaldo and Liverpool great Luis Suarez, both of whom scored 27 times in the competition.
Explaining why he withdrew him at half-time, denying him another hat-trick, Guardiola insists he had little choice but to take him off.
Erling Haaland Real Madrid clause denials
City face Southampton over the weekend and Guardiola is all-too aware of their failure to beat them last season.
“The game was 3-0 and he’s [Haaland] played a lot of minutes. It was good for the younger players and Cole Palmer was excellent.
“We cannot forget that last season we could not beat Southampton. We’ll look at that. We have to put in the mindset that it is a new game and hopefully we do not believe what we did will happen in the next game. We have to win all the games to finish first in the group stage too.”
Haaland’s first few months at City has been shrouded, if you like, by speculation that a clause in his deal allows Real Madrid the option to sign the striker in summer 2024.
Like releases in his past deals at Salzburg (£21m) and Dortmund (£51m), the striker reportedly has an exit clause in place allowing Real to swoop in 2024 for £150m.
It’s a carefully managed strategy set in place by his agent Mino Raiola before his passing earlier this year.
Responding for the first time to claims of a Real Madrid transfer clause, Guardiola has now moved to deny the talk.
“It’s not true,” the City boss said. “He has not got a release clause for Real Madrid or any other team.
‘The rumours and people talking, we cannot control it. I always worry about what we can control.
“What’s important is he has adapted really well, we have the feeling he is happy here. We will try with him and all of them who want to stay to make them happy.
“In the future, nobody knows, but he is happy, he has settled perfectly. He is incredibly loved and this is the most important thing.”
Jack Grealish left awestruck
Clearly Haaland is feeling the love at City and one teammate who cannot believe his eyes is Grealish.
The £100m man admits he’s never seen or played with anyone quite like the Norwegian and reckons the sky is the limit for his talents.
“Do you know what? It’s unbelievable, honestly, I’ve never ever witnessed anything like it in my life,” he told BT Sport in a post-match interview.
“For the first and second goal, I was just laughing because I was like, ‘how?’, because he’s always there, he’s always finishing it, and yeah, he’s a pleasure to play with at the moment.”
That feeling was clearly shared by Copenhagen goalkeeper, Kamil Grabara, who spoke to Grealish about Haaland during the game.
“After one of the goals, I think the third one, the keeper said something to me, he said ‘this guy’s not human’, and I was like bro, you’re telling me!
“He’s unbelievable honestly, he’s a pleasure to play with, he’s so humble, he’s great around the place and that isn’t me just bigging him up, that’s the honest truth.
“Hopefully he can carry on this form and fire us to glory.”
However many goals he ends up with both this season and throughout his career, it’s quite clear we are in the presence of greatness. To be fair, it is perhaps only injuries that can hold him back.
Haaland already has 178 goals at the age of 22. By comparison, Lionel Messi had 91 goals when he reached the same age. Cristiano Ronaldo had 47 by the time he turned 22.