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Other SportsGuardiola: Haaland under no pressure to match Messi, Ronaldo numbers

Guardiola: Haaland under no pressure to match Messi, Ronaldo numbers

Pep Guardiola insists Erling Haaland is not under any pressure to replicate the feats of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, saying goals will always find the striker if he plays his natural game.

Haaland recently missed 10 games with a foot fracture, but he returned to the scoresheet with two goals as Manchester City beat Everton 2-0 in the Premier League on Saturday.

Before helping himself to his second-half brace, the Norwegian cut an irritable figure as a disciplined Everton side sat deep and denied him space.

On Monday, Guardiola shrugged off suggestions Haaland’s body language was a concern, saying the striker merely needs to remain patient when opponents attempt to nullify him.

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“Erling is young, playing in the most difficult position on the pitch surrounded by four or five players with minor space,” Guardiola said at a press conference to preview Tuesday’s Champions League trip to Copenhagen.

“In those moments, he has to be positive. It will come. When he scored a goal, he reacted but he doesn’t need to score because he helps us with many things, not just with goals.

“He is defined on goals but it’s not just that, in so many games it is how he is clapping, encouraging his team-mates and making the first intense press. This is what we need from Erling.

“We cannot forget he has been out for two months. Getting back to his dynamic is not easy and he’s a huge competitor who wants to score goals. I know that, we know that, so relax.”

Haaland scored 52 goals in all competitions as City won the treble last season, with 12 of those coming in 11 Champions League appearances as the Citizens claimed their first European crown.

The 23-year-old has 40 goals in just 35 career Champions League games, putting him 18th in the competition’s all-time scoring charts. Messi required 61 games to reach 40 goals in Europe’s premier club competition, while Ronaldo needed 82.

However, Guardiola insists there is no pressure on Haaland to maintain that remarkable rate, saying: “With the contract he has, you don’t come for a few days, you come for three or four years.

“We never put pressure on him, saying, ‘you have to score a goal’. No. Be involved with what we have to do, and the rest will come naturally.

“You see his numbers; in the Champions League not even Messi or Cristiano had these numbers at his age. The numbers are unbelievable and that happens because he scored goals with us, Salzburg, Borussia Dortmund – he scored goals everywhere.

“He scores everywhere, all the time. That helps him have a special mentality as a football player and we are delighted to have him. We are delighted that he is back.

“Two months out is a long time, like Kevin De Bruyne being out for five months. Now they are back and we are really pleased.”

Harry Carr
Harry Carr
Harry is a freelance sports journalist with experience of working for the Racing Post, Stats Perform, Opta Analyst and more, covering major events across all sports but holding a particular love for the beautiful game.
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