Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has hailed Erling Haaland as already one of the best strikers he has ever worked with in a glittering career that has previously seen him coach the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Sergio Aguero and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Haaland recently scored his 20th goal of the season in just his 13th appearance since his summer move from Borussia Dortmund.
That ended an astonishing run of consecutive Premier League home games in which he had scored a hat-trick at three and Guardiola joked immediately afterwards that he was ‘so upset’ his new superstar had only scored once and should be ‘sacked’.
As City now prepare to face Copenhagen in the Champions League – Haaland scored two in the reverse fixture last week – Guardiola has reflected on where the Norwegians ranks overall in a managerial career that spans 15 years.
“He is one of the best,” Guardiola said at his pre-match conference. “I have many very, very good strikers and Erling is one of them.
“He understands quickly and he is a nice guy. He is able to do this for the team, but we need to work together and that has happened. I speak a lot about him, but sometimes I should not have to because the numbers, they do this.”
Having struggled with injuries last season at Borussia Dortmund and making only 30 appearances in all competitions, there had been concern over how Haaland might cope physically at City.
But Guardiola, after initially hinting at regular rest for Haaland earlier in the season, said recently that City have been working on the player’s fitness and he is now in a position to play regularly.
The two-time Champions League winner hasn’t ruled out rotating his starting XI against Copenhagen, though, admitting that fatigue could be a factor in team selection.
“It’s true there’s a risk of fatigue,” he said. “I will decide on the selection [on Tuesday]. I will speak with players, doctors and physios and decide.”
For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter and Facebook!