My first reaction when I heard that Manchester City had agreed to sign Erling Haaland was just ‘wow!’
What a brilliant bit of business the deal will be, and what an unbelievable signing he will be.
I don’t want to say he is the missing piece in their team, because City have been excellent for the past couple of seasons anyway while mostly doing without a recognised striker, but he will add a whole new dimension to their play.
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I remember when City beat Borussia Dortmund last season, Haaland was roughing up Ruben Dias and I’d never seen anyone do that to him before.
Haaland will put pressure on defenders in a way none of City’s current forwards do, plus offer more of a threat from crosses and also hold it up and bring other people into play.
Oh, and of course he will score goals – loads and loads of goals.
Every time I watch him, his finishing is just ridiculously good. I still think City miss too many chances, but that won’t happen very often when they fall to Haaland. His numbers aren’t just great in the Bundesliga, either – they are just as impressive in the Champions League.
All this, and by activating his £64m buyout clause before it expired on 30 April, they haven’t even had to break the bank to bring the Norway international to Etihad Stadium.
It will be an amazing deal – he is about half the price of Tottenham striker Harry Kane, who City tried to buy last summer and, at 21, is seven years younger.
They are going to get twice as long out of Haaland, at least. It’s amazing news for City fans but scary for everyone else, because it is just frightening to think how good he could turn out to be.
Why City had to change their ethos with this deal
Haaland’s dad, Alf-Inge, played for City too – he joined from Leeds in June 2000, a few weeks before Erling was born – so it was obviously time for him to come home!
Being serious, though, by getting Haaland this summer, City will have won the race for a global superstar who all the biggest clubs in the world have been chasing for the past couple of years.
For all the exciting and, yes, expensive signings that City have made in the past decade or so, there have not been too many what I would call blockbuster buys like this one, that make everyone else across Europe sit up and take notice.
They had to do this deal, though. It might not be City’s ethos to always go after the very biggest marquee names, but this time they just had to be at the table.
Firstly, it’s not that often that these kind of players become available, especially at such a good price, but Haaland’s age is a big factor here, too. As much as City want success now – and remember they can still win two major trophies this season – the great thing is they always have an eye on the future as well.
City are saying ‘we’re not stopping here’
City are always thinking about how they can be dominating for years to come and Haaland obviously fits the bill there. Other than Paris St-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe, there is no better striker out there aged 23 or younger.
So, it will be money well spent for me, and it is also a massive statement to all their rivals. City are basically saying ‘yes we have had stacks of recent success, but we are not stopping here’.
It also sends out a message to everyone already at the club that they are here to win trophies. No-one is guaranteed them of course – but City are guaranteed to compete for them, and that is all a player wants.
That’s the reason Haaland will sign. It’s also why players like Kane wanted to come to City – and why so few players seem to want to leave.
Sergio Aguero spent 10 years at City when he could have gone to any club in the world. It wouldn’t surprise me if Haaland did the same because it’s that kind of environment, and it’s the same for the manager too.
Pep Guardiola is out of contract in 2023 and, although there will be plenty of other things that influence his decision whether to sign a new deal, adding another huge talent for him to work with to what was already such an exciting young squad is hardly going to harm City’s chances of keeping him.
Signing Kane would have been more of a risk
I find it annoying that, whichever player you talk about and no matter how good they are, someone will always bring up what he can’t do.
With Haaland, I’d already been hearing how he won’t press like the rest of the team do when City play with a false nine.
Yes, they might lose a little bit of that with him in the side but you are going to get so much more in terms of how clinical he is and his sharpness and movement inside the opposition box.
Besides, City have so much of the ball – they have averaged more than 68% possession in Premier League games this season – and win the ball back so high up the pitch that Haaland won’t even have to press that much.
Instead, we are talking about him making dashes of five metres or 10 metres in areas where he already is, so it is not as if he will be dropping deep to the halfway line and then being asked to cover the width of the pitch.
So, I just don’t buy any argument that he would not fit into City’s style of play – it actually suits him, with his bursts of energy. He is lightning quick and he works hard anyway.
There are bound to be comparisons made to, say, Kane, because City tried and failed to sign him last summer. But, given the choice of who to get, I’d go for Haaland every time.
Kane is a brilliant player and would 100% make City’s team better too, but his age and his injury record count against him when you consider his price, and made him more of a risk.
I can understand why Haaland is viewed as a risk too, because he has never played in the Premier League, but watch him play in the Champions League and Bundesliga and you will not be worried about that one bit. He is not just one for the future, he is ready made for the big stage now.
Of course he can get even better still – like Aguero did, he can keep working on what he does off the ball and his work outside the area, but his link-up play is already improving anyway. He is young enough to adapt his game, and who better to learn that from than Guardiola?
It all adds up to make him the perfect signing – put Haaland in this City side and he will definitely flourish. There is lots to look forward to before that happens, but I can’t wait to see him in a sky blue shirt.
Micah Richards was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.
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