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    5. Erling Haaland is a world-class striker, but not a world-class ..


    Erling Haaland is a world-class striker, but not a world-class player.

    Antonio Rudiger kept Erling Haaland in his pocket during the 3-3 draw this week. Photo: Getty Images/Alberto Gardin

    Erling Haaland is a luxury football player. He is undoubtedly one of the best goalscorers in the world, but he has yet to become a world-class player.

    To be truly world class, you need more than one overarching trait. Think about the best Premier League strikers of the last 20 years – Thierry Henry, Luis Suarez or Harry Kane – and they have had or are having a big impact on the biggest matches, whether they scored or not. All of them can play for any team in the world and produce more than impressive performances.

    In general, Haaland is not yet at the same level as these strikers, his last three games against first-class central defenders confirm that that, despite all his brilliance in the penalty area, he has not yet left it.

    Virgil van Dijk, William Saliba and Antonio Rudiger bullied Haaland, while the highly publicized duels between top defenders and scoring machines were nothing of the sort. It was more of a mismatch than a coincidence.

    No high caliber striker can be so easily dominated.

    In my time, Didier Drogba was a world-class striker. More often than not, I have encountered battles in which we both emerged victorious at different times. This is what a duel between a striker and a central defender should be like.

    Van Dijk, Saliba and Rudiger will not admit it publicly, but after the games of Liverpool, Arsenal and Real Madrid against Manchester City, they are all , must have left the field believing that they had much more difficult tasks ahead of them than keeping Haaland quiet.

    Since joining City, Haaland has been a brilliant curiosity. Any analysis of a modern player is immediately considered “criticism” rather than observation. But no one who regularly watches Haaland, whether as a neutral or a die-hard City fan, can help but admit that when he doesn't score, he doesn't do anything else.

    For City, this is quite normal , considering that he doesn't score very rarely. City's winning percentage when Haaland scores is 88 percent. They have yet to lose a single competition when he shoots on goal.

    City have such good possession of the ball in most games that Haaland can focus his energy on getting into the right position and getting the assist. But when the level of opposition increases, it becomes a problem. When Haaland plays and doesn't score, City's winning percentage drops to 49 percent. His 41 goalless games include nine defeats. This is a huge drop.

    It's only through the topsides that we get an idea of ​​Haaland's work without the ball or how he helps counter pressure with his tackling up play, so he's heard some more negative assessments, most recently from Roy Keane and Henry.

    From day one, I was intrigued that Pep Guardiola thought Haaland so highly that he was willing to compromise his usual principles.

    The Norwegian does not press high, retains the ball particularly well, does not display outstanding physical play in deep areas and does not link play with his midfielders. He's a fierce old-school number nine – the kind of striker we thought was extinct at the elite level of the modern game until Haaland burst onto the scene.

    In his first few years at City, Guardiola produced the impression that he was not confident in Sergio Aguero in the biggest matches, often leaving him on the bench. Aguero will go down in history as one of the greatest strikers in the Premier League. Guardiola wanted more from him.

    What sets Haaland apart from Aguero and all prolific goalscorers of the past is the incredible speed of his strikes. It may be one-dimensional, but the measurement is so unusual that any shortcomings when assessing City's performance become insignificant.

    Haaland scored 52 goals in 53 appearances for City last season. This year he will turn 40 years old. It will likely reach 250 in record time.

    Haaland's goals inevitably lead to victories for Manchester City. Photo: Getty Images/Oli Scarff

    When you give these numbers, does anything else matter? That's the question I ask myself every time he plays calmly.

    City won the treble last season. They may do it again in a few weeks. How can you question any part of the squad that has achieved so much? Haaland is one of the reasons City have gone from being a team aiming for the Champions League title to possibly winning it in back-to-back seasons.

    But the main long-term issue here is not what City fans think, or even what Guardiola thinks of Haaland's overall performance. Guardiola must be happy with what Haaland is doing, otherwise he wouldn't have chosen him.

    What will become increasingly important as his career progresses: What does Haaland think? Where does he want his game to go? Does he really care that his performance is judged solely on his goals? Is his minimal contribution beyond goals scored by intention or necessity? If a manager demands more outside the box, is he capable of delivering it?

    Haaland is still only 23 years old and it appears as if he has a career plan mapped out.

    p>If his only interest is breaking scoring records, he doesn't need to change a thing. If he has serious ambitions of winning the Ballon d'Or and playing for Real Madrid, he could be in trouble. He needs to add more to his game to make that leap and seriously challenge his rival for the title of best player of his generation, Kylian Mbappe.

    To play as a center forward at a club of Real Madrid's caliber, you have to be versatile . Karim Benzema has been seriously underrated for his goal-scoring ability. Mbappe, expected to join Real Madrid this summer, is much more than just a goalscorer.

    Two of the greatest players of the last two decades – Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – dominated the Ballon d'Or for the same reason. For most of their rivalry, there was little difference between the two when assessing their impact on goals and assists. Messi moved away from Ronaldo once the Portuguese superstar's game became more focused on action in the box.

    Haaland may certainly have the last laugh on Rudiger in the second leg of next week's Champions League quarter-final. The best attacker has an easier time beating the best defender because he only needs one moment to decide the game. Nobody will remember whether Rudiger Haaland had 179 minutes in his pocket over two matches if the striker scores the goal that takes City into the next semi-final.

    We all love goalscorers because they are top goalscorers. match winners and Haaland is not afraid to put the finishing touches on City's spectacular performances for the foreseeable future.

    There is no better striker. But ultimately he will have to become a finished product to be talked about on the same level as Ronaldo and Messi.

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