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Erling Haaland: Man City striker ‘on Cristiano Ronaldo & Lionel Messi level’, says Pep Guardiola


Erling Haaland celebrates against Southampton
Erling Haaland has scored 44 goals in 38 games in all competitions this season for Manchester City

It is no secret Erling Haaland scores lots of goals – but his stunning bicycle kick in Manchester City’s victory over Southampton will undoubtedly rank among his best.

There was uncertainty over whether the prolific 22-year-old would start on Saturday after a groin injury, but he announced his return in style by connecting with Jack Grealish’s cross in acrobatic fashion.

That was his second goal of the game as title-chasing City recorded a 4-1 win at St Mary’s to extend their winning run to eight matches in all competitions and maintain pressure on Premier League leaders Arsenal.

“We have lived two incredible decades with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, but he is on that level,” manager Pep Guardiola told BBC Sport.

“The second goal was amazing. It is not easy to pick the ball up in the sky and put it on the grass.”

Guardiola added: “I think our bosses bought him for this type of game. We are uncomfortable and not playing at our best level but he gets the goal.

“The second, you can’t imagine at his height he has this ability. Exceptional goal.”

City, English champions in four of the past five seasons, signed Haaland from Borussia Dortmund for what increasingly appears a bargain £51.2m in July.

Nine months later and the Norway striker has equalled the record of 44 goals in all competitions by a Premier League player in one season.

Through to the Champions League quarter-finals and FA Cup semi-finals, he could have 16 games to shatter that mark set by Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2003 and Mohamed Salah in 2018.

His overhead second at St Mary’s was also his 30th league goal of the campaign. Taking just 27 games, he has reached that total quicker than anyone else.

“He scores a lot of goals. It is insane. He is there. If we create chances he is there,” said team-mate Kevin de Bruyne.

On Haaland’s spectacular second, the Belgian joked: “You will never see me do that! You can get me to Southampton hospital if I do that!

“Haaland is happy here,” he added. “He knows we create a lot of chances and he does the rest.”

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, former Premier League defender Danny Gabbidon described Haaland’s finish as “outrageous”.

“What a finish this is. He’s got so much to do, the cross is behind him and he’s had to adjust. The execution is outstanding,” he added.

Commentating for BBC Match of the Day, Jonathan Pearce said: “I’ve been doing this job for 42 years and I cannot remember seeing a goalscorer like this.

“He is a goalscoring machine. I’m lost for superlatives. Absolutely stunning.”

Only two other players have scored 30 or more goals in their first season in the Premier League, with Andrew Cole reaching 34 in 1993-94 and Kevin Phillips netting 30 in 1999-00.

Haaland has, with about a quarter of the season remaining, outscored eight Premier League teams.

In setting up Haaland’s first of the match, De Bruyne reached a landmark of his own as he became only the fifth player to reach 100 Premier League assists, and the quickest to do so – in 237 games.

On his own achievement, the Belgium playmaker said: “We scored a lot of goals in the eight years I have been here. I have been blessed with the team-mates here.

“It is nice. Maybe when I am done playing football it is something I will look back on.”

Erling Haaland scores a bicycle kick against Southampton
Erling Haaland has scored 10 goals in his past three games – while Manchester City have netted 21 in their past four in all competitions

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