Pep Guardiola has waxed lyrical about Erling Haaland, but the Manchester City boss says Lionel Messi was a better player than him at 22.
Haaland announced himself to the Premier League in style on Sunday as his well-executed brace put West Ham to the sword in a 2-0 away triumph, handing the defending champions three opening-day points.
It took just 36 minutes for the Norwegian sensation to open his account in England after being felled by West Ham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola in the penalty box, netting the resultant spot kick to break the deadlock.
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West Ham looked to up the ante after a demoralising first half in which City hogged the ball with authority, but Haaland soon silenced a confident-growing London Stadium just 20 minutes after the restart, tucking home with precision.
The £51.5m striker came under the spotlight in the Community Shield a week prior after firing a blank and being outshone by Liverpool’s new marksman Darwin Nunez, but he firmly put that 3-1 defeat to bed on Sunday, and Guardiola believes he still has plenty of room to grow, a frightening prospect.
“Erling like Julian [Alvarez], Phil [Foden] or Cole Palmer] have a lot of margin to improve,” Guardiola said in his pre-match press conference for Saturday’s Bournemouth clash.
Despite Haaland being heralded as a generational talent and tipped as a future Ballon d’Or winner, Guardiola believes a certain Messi was superior at his age, having already scooped his first Ballon d’Or at 22 in 2009.
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Guardiola added: “He can be a better player, he can have the will do do it. He likes football, I never see a player who is 21 or 22 years old – maybe Messi he was already advanced, the rest is never finished and always you can improve.
“We will try this season, next season for him to be a better player than when he arrived. [He has an] incredible instinct he has but has to ready the situations better and we’re here as staff and coaches to help them.”