Eight Wounds

News for nerds

Pep Guardiola has praised Erling Haaland with Manchester City’s manager saying it does not take an expert to appreciate how impressive the Borussia Dortmund striker is.

City host Dortmund in Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final first leg hoping to reach the semi-finals for the first time under Guardiola. While Haaland is on City’s radar as a potential replacement for Sergio Agüero in the summer, the manager said last week that his expected price of more than £100m is not possible for the club.

Yet Guardiola was clear in his admiration for the Norwegian, who has 21 Bundesliga goals this season in an overall total of 34 strikes in 37 appearances, plus 10 in the Champions League.

“To score that number of goals at his age is not easy. He’s 20 years old and the numbers speak for themselves,” said Guardiola. “When that happens it’s because he can score with the right, the left, via counterattacks, in the box. He’s a fantastic striker, everyone knows it.”

Haaland is expected to depart Dortmund in the close season, with City, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Barcelona among clubs who retain an interest in signing him.

Guardiola was asked if Haaland’s value will be at least £100m. “I don’t know, it’s a question for Dortmund, his agent [Mino Raiola], so I don’t know,” the City manager said. “I understand completely people ask about Haaland because of course he’s an exceptional striker but you understand it’s not appropriate for me to talk about a player from another club.

“The only thing I can say is that he is an exceptional striker. With his age, he is an exceptional striker. He’s a fantastic player – that’s all.” Guardiola dismissed the notion that City being unable to pay £100m or more for a player places the club at a disadvantage. “No, not at all,” he said.

“Not for the fact we have not spent for one player a lot of money, gives you a disadvantage. Football is a team game, everyone makes his contribution, the guy who doesn’t play makes his contribution, the backroom staff and everyone, so it’s not just about one player, it’s about absolutely everyone.”

City’s record signing is Rúben Dias, who cost £64m last summer. “So far the club has decided not to spend close to £100m for a player, or more than £100m on a player,” said Guardiola. “Maybe in the future it is going to happen if they decide it is necessary to improve the team for the next five, 10 years, for many reasons, but so far the club, the organisation, the CEO, the sporting director decided not to do it and that’s why they didn’t do it. But maybe in the future – I don’t know.”

Edin Terzic, Dortmund’s interim coach, admitted Jadon Sancho could be sold in the summer. The former City forward, who will miss Tuesday’s game due to a muscle injury, was a target for Manchester United last summer, and remains on their radar.
Dortmund are fifth in the Bundesliga, seven points from fourth place. Terzic was asked if failure to qualify for the Champions League would weaken the club’s ability to retain Sancho.

“The future is hard to tell,” he said. “We have seven games left to qualify – it is difficult now but still possible, we will try our best to make it possible. At the end of the season we will see what happens next.”

This followed comments from the Dortmund chief executive, Hans-Joachim Watzke, regarding Sancho. “If an extraordinary offer comes in for him, we will discuss it with the player and his agent, as always. Nonetheless, I am very sure that the transfer market will only run to a very limited extent this summer,” he told DAZN.

Terzic also claimed he was unaffected by Raiola and Haaland’s father, Alf-Inge, recently holding talks with Barcelona and Real Madrid, regarding a potential move.

“It has no impact on me because I can’t stop Mino Raiola and Alfie Haaland from travelling. It’s up to them, they’re grown-ups and they can choose whatever they want to do. I just can have an impact on Erling and we are happy to have him in our team,” he said. “He’s been back with us since last Thursday, when he came back from the Norway national team. He’s a lovely guy, his qualities are well-known all over the world and we are proud and happy he’s part of our team.”

Under Guardiola City have exited the Champions League to Monaco in the last 16 and Liverpool, Tottenham and Lyon in the quarter-finals. The loss against Lyon last August was a one-off match due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Of that 3-1 defeat, Guardiola said: “Of course, it remained in my head for weeks and it was painful, I cannot deny it. We wanted to go through and we accepted we didn’t do it well, we didn’t deserve to go through.

“But after a short time, 10 days [maybe] we wake up and prepare for next season, and here we are again, to try again. It was a disappointment but we are here again.” The City and Spain midfielder Rodri described the threat of Dortmund as “anarchic”. “They have a very anarchic type of game, they try to punish you on the counterattack.”