John Aldridge: Liverpool made a huge mistake over Erling Haaland
Norwegian needs to produce the good year after year to join the elite list
ERLING Haaland came onto my radar for the first time in October 2019.
His Salzburg team were playing Liverpool in the Champions League at Anfield and a raw Haaland came on midway through the second half.
We knew his dad was a decent player who played for Man City and Leeds, even though he was probably more famous for his infamous clash with Roy Keane than what he achieved on the pitch.
Yet from the moment his lad came on to the field at Anfield, I knew he was something special.
He was big, quick and instantly gave the Liverpool defence some problems, scoring a goal a few minutes after he came on.
I’m not a scout for Liverpool, but when you have been a striker at the highest level of the game, you know a special player when you see one – and even as a teenager, it was clear that Haaland had whatever IT is.
Takumi Minamino was also playing for Salzburg that night, and Liverpool ended up signing him a few months later.
Haaland was available for around £23million at that point, as that was the fee Borussia Dortmund paid for him in the same month as Liverpool signed Minamino.
While the decision-makers at Anfield have made some great decisions in recent years, signing Minamino over Haaland has to be the worst yet – and that has been confirmed this season.
Haaland has scored gone through the 50-goal barrier – and he’s done it with an ease that has highlighted his class.
It was no surprise to see the Football Writers’ Association naming Haaland as their Player of the Year on Friday – and it was a fully deserved accolade.
Some people are just born with an instinct for goals and this lad is one of them.
I was blessed with that gift for scoring goals in my playing days, and when you look back on players like Jimmy Greaves and Roger Hunt from the 1960s, they just knew where to go to get goals.
Alan Shearer and Harry Kane have had that golden touch in the modern era, and now we are seeing the 2023 version of the perfect striker in Haaland.
Regular readers of this column will know I’m not a fan of Manchester City and how they have gone about getting success, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a player like Haaland.
His movement of the ball is exceptional and like I did, he doesn’t waste his energy getting involved in midfield play or drifting into wide positions.
He is a penalty-box operator and comes alive when the ball gets into the danger area.
You don’t see Haaland curling in 35-yard shots into the top corner or nutmegging three players and going on a mazy run.
He bides his time, waits for the moment to pounce and if he misses a chance, it makes him more hungry for the next one.
Is he the best striker we have seen in the Premier League era?
While it is easy to make a statement like that after he scored so many goals this season, he needs to do it again and again to be considered the best.
Shearer and Kane are two players who did it time and again over a decade – and while I suspect Haaland will do that, he needs to put the goals on the board to join the greats.
For me, the best season I have ever seen from a player in the Premier League was delivered by Luis Suarez in a Liverpool shirt during the 2013-14 season.
He didn’t score as many goals as Haaland has managed at City so far, but the genius that flowed from him was outrageous.
Suarez took games by the scruff of the neck and won them on his own, firing in goals from the half way line and terrifying defenders as he ran at them at pace.
Haaland is a different type of striker, but declaring him as the greatest after one season is not justified.
If City win the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup treble this season – which I fully expect them to do now – that will help to elevate his status up the ranks of the great strikers.
Achievements like that go down in history and are remembered forever more, so this City side are on the brink of something very special.
What Haaland has done is given what was already great team an X Factor that has made them an invincible team.
Players often take time to settle in a new league, but we all knew this lad was going to be a success, especially in a team that has unlimited finances behind it and a great manager in Pep Guardiola.
The concern for the Premier League and potentially the rest of European football must be that if City are this good after just one season with Haaland, imagine how good they will be when the add more players to their squad this summer.
You can see them signing Jude Bellingham and a couple of additional world-class players because they know UEFA can’t touch them when it comes to the Financial Fair Play rules.
Liverpool were the only side capable of standing up to City in recent years in England and with Jurgen Klopp’s side now in the midst of a period of transition, we could be in for a long period of Manchester City dominance.
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