Can The Erling Haaland Man City Partnership Deliver Champions League Titles?

Photo Credit: AP

Erling Haaland Man City Move The Talk Of The Town

Well before he arrived at the Etihad Stadium, the proposed Erling Haaland Man City move was one of the worst-kept pieces of transfer news. The Norwegian international had reportedly agreed to terms with the Citizens in January 2022.

Even then months of speculation followed until the official football news broke that Haaland had put pen to paper with Premier League side Man City. Regarded as one of the best players in the world, how far can the Haaland Man City partnership go?

City Hit The Release Clause

Given the current state of football transfer fees, Manchester City’s initial £51.2 million paid for Haaland looks like an absolute bargain. That was the sum that the Premier League club had to come up with to trigger Haaland’s release clause in his contract with Borussia Dortmund.

In early May 2022 the big Man City news was that an agreement with the Bundesliga club had been made. Almost a month later, on June 13th, Man City transfer news took another step forward.

They confirmed that Haaland would be heading to the Etihad on July 1st, the start of a five-year contract.

Remarkable Champions League with RB Salzburg

Already a promising youngster, it was the 2019/20 Group Stage of the Champions League that put Haaland on the map. The striker had joined the Austrian Bundesliga club in early 2019 on a five-year contract.

In the Champions League, RB Salzburg were drawn in a section with Liverpool, Napoli and Genk. On his debut in the competition, Haaland fired off a hattrick against Belgian side Genk. He then netted at Anfield against Liverpool, before getting on the scoresheet in back-to-back fixtures against Serie A side Napoli.

Haaland then made it a five-match scoring streak when he netted in the reverse fixture against Genk. He was the first-ever teenager to score in each of his first four matches in the competition. Haaland was also the first teenager to score in five consecutive UEFA Champions League matches.

In a 2-0 loss at home against Liverpool on Matchday Six, Haaland couldn’t extend his streak and Salzburg failed to reach the knockout stages. The fixture against Liverpool was the last that Haaland would play for Salzburg as he moved on to Dortmund.

He left Salzburg with a record of 29 goals in 28 games.

Haaland’s Club Career

  • Byrne
  • Molde
  • Red Bull Salzburg
  • Borussia Dortmund
  • Manchester City

Borussia Dortmund Lose Their Star To City

German club Borussia Dortmund has one of the best reputations in Europe for developing young players. The likes of Jadon Sancho, Jude Bellingham, Robert Lewandowski, Ousmane Dembele and Christian Pulisic have all gone through the doors at the Signal Iduna Park.

Dortmund, with its extensive scouting network, continue to capture promising young stars. Working on the model of securing future talent and then selling them on, BVB makes an appealing destination for young players.

The club invests heavily in young players, who in turn gain experience in one of Europe’s top leagues. Dortmund trusts such youngsters with playing time and it’s the route Erling Haaland took. He was already a rising star in the game with Austrian side RB Salzburg before he moved to the Bundesliga.

At the time the transfer rumour mill had him linked with some of the wealthiest clubs in the world, including Man City, Manchester United and La Liga powerhouses Barcelona and Real Madrid. But a four-year deal was struck with Dortmund as the Bundesliga club met Red Bull Salzburg’s £51.2 million buyout clause on Haaland’s contract.

Haaland’s record in all competitions with Borussia Dortmund was a staggering 86 goals in 89 appearances.

The Early Days Of Haaland’s Career

The first full-time professional contract for Haaland came with the Norwegian side, Molde. Haaland netted on his debut for them, which was a domestic cup match. He would score four goals in 20 appearances during that debut season.

But the 2018 campaign in the Norwegian top flight, started to fully unleash his natural talent. The youngster tallied 16 goals in 30 matches during the 2018 Eliteserien, ending the campaign as the top scorer for Molde.

Haaland then signed his 5-year contract with Austrian Bundesliga RB Salzburg, who were domestic champions at the time. They paid €8.00m for him in August 2018, Haaland moving there on January 1st, 2019.

Champions League Target

Manchester City have firmly established themselves as one of the major forces in English football in the last decade. Their first Premier League title came in 2012 under manager Roberto Mancini.

The famous Sergio Aguero goal deep into injury time at the Etihad against QPR on the final day of the season got them the crown. They would add five more Premier League titles in the following 10 years.

But there is something that is missing from the Man City trophy cabinet. That is the UEFA Champions League silverware. It is the one that they so badly want; the status of being crowned European Champions.

It’s part of the reason why the club brought in Pep Guardiola as manager at the start of the 2016/17 season. The Spaniard led La Liga side Barcelona to two Champions League titles in 2009 and 2011. He was expected to bring the title to the northwest of England sooner rather than later.

The closest CIty came was in 2021 when they met fellow Premier League side, Chelsea, in the Final. The Citizens had been heavy favourites but were unravelled by Thomas Tuchel’s Blues who won the match 1-0.

Now with Erling Haaland, will City finally be able to serve up that elusive UEFA Champions League dream?

Haaland’s Career Record (pre-Man City)

  • Byrne: 16 appearances, 0 goals
  • Molde: 30 appearances, 16 goals
  • RB Salzburg: 27 appearances, 28 goals
  • Borussia Dortmund: 89 appearances, 86 goals

New Outright Striker Model For Pep

One intriguing part of the Erling Haaland Man City transfer has been Haaland’s role. Haaland is a huge physical presence standing at 6′ 5″. He can boss defences with his size and has largely played up front as a lone striker in his career.

Another huge asset in his arsenal is his explosive speed. Haaland’s pace is staggering, which allows him to gain a huge advantage running in behind defences, or running at them with the ball at his feet.

But Manchester City have been content with operating with a “false nine” instead of an outright striker. That’s the format that Pep Guardiola set up during their successful 2021/22 Premier League campaign.

Haaland gives them something completely different. He doesn’t naturally fit the Manchester City style. But slotting him into the side, and reworking tactics around him is probably a nice problem for Guardiola to have. The player is a constant threat. Eight goals in his first five Premier League matches is a testament to that.

Even when Haaland isn’t heavily involved in a game, he has a presence that opposing teams can never switch off from. His predatory finishing touch means that he needs few chances to put the ball in the back of the net.

Will Rotation Suit Haaland at City?

Norwegian international Erling Haaland’s move to Premier League giants Manchester City will likely see the player face new scenarios as well. Manchester City have a stacked fixture list. They are expected to go deep in the UEFA Champions League.

The Citizens are the champions-elect for many in the Premier League. But tthere are FA Cup and EFL Cup targets too. So Erling Haaland will have to face squad rotation. He’s one of the global superstars of the game. Yet he is not going to be immune to starting certain games on the bench under Guardiola.

Rotation though is not for every player. Former player Raheem Sterling cited being dropped at Man City as part of the reason that he was happy to sign for Chelsea. Gabriel Jesus has flourished as a regular starter following his move to Arsenal.

Pep Guardiola is a calculated tactician. He has not been afraid to make decisions where star players have been left out of big games. The Spaniard has made some cold and clinical decisions before. That leads to the interesting possibility of Haaland’s bid for the Premier League Golden Boot at the whim of Guardiola.

Where Does Julian Alvarez Fit?

Haaland was not the only new striker to arrive at Manchester City in the summer of 2022. They also brought in Julian Alvarez from Argentinean side River Plate. Alvarez is the understudy to Haaland at Man City.

The 22-year-old centre-forward lacks the experience that Haaland has in European club football. So the Argentinean is going to start sliding his way into the starting eleven in less important Man City fixtures.

It could be domestic Cup games and perhaps dead rubbers in the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League group stage. Alvarez could be given his starting chance in midweek Premier League matches too. When the fixture list gets busier, will the Argentinean be trusted ahead of Haaland to deliver the goods, when facing weaker teams?

Life On The International Scene

The son of former Norwegian international and Man City player Alfie Haaland will get a mid-season break this year. Norway failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, so Erling Haaland is one of the highest profile names that won’t be at Qatar later in the year.

The biggest football tournament in the world will miss arguably the biggest player in the world.

Haaland has a big future ahead with his country of course. He reached 20 goals in 21 international caps. Norway’s all-time leading goalscorer is Jørgen Juve with a tally of 33. It’s an international goalscoring record that is well within his sights. He will likely surpass his father’s tally of 34 international appearances for Norway too.

The Erling Haaland Man City Dream Team

There are exciting times ahead with the Haaland Man City partnership likely only to go from strength to strength. The Citizens have a player on their hands that has a market value of around €150m. They paid a fraction of that to capture his services. Haaland and Pep Guardiola, it’s a dream team for the club’s supporters.

The goal-scoring record of the player speaks for itself. He’s delivered the goods wherever he has gone so far in his still burgeoning career. Erling Haaland in a Man City shirt brings new pressures for  the player. Will his phenomenal scoring rate get City to the places where they want to be?

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