Is Haaland the next Messi?
Manchester City’s striker Erling Haaland has the hunger for goalscoring, but is he as complete a player as Lionel Messi? Pep Guardiola thinks not...yet.
Erling Haaland is way ahead of where Lionel Messi was at 22 years old as far as goals scored, but it’s tough to compare the two, for several reasons.
When Haaland came onto the scene in 2020, he made his presence known with nine goals in a single game at the U-20 World Cup, and he just keeps scoring goals. Since he joined Manchester City, he’s found his groove even more, surpassing 30 goals before 30 games with ease and is on the brink of breaking the record for most goals scored in a single season in the Premier League. Right now, Andrew Cole and Alan Shearer share the record with 34 goals, but Haaland only needs one more to break it, and considering he scores a goal nearly every game, it shouldn’t take too long.
Haaland vs Messi
Haaland’s mentor at City, manager Pep Guardiola, obviously knows how talented and determined Haaland is, but he admits that a comparison to the Argentinian player, widely regarded as the greatest of all time, is pointless.
“In terms of goals and mentality, yeah. But Messi has produced these numbers every season during the last 10-15 years,” said Guardiola. “But Erling, since the start at Salzburg, before [at Dortmund], and now here, has the same level.”
Behind Messi and Shakhtar’s Luis Adriano, Haaland is just the third player to score five goals in single Champions League game, and he was the youngest (22) and fastest to do so (25 games). For his club and his country, Haaland is far ahead of where Messi was at 22 years old. Haaland has 201 goals in 244 games while Messi had 140 goals in 262 games at 22 years old. However, Haaland is a designated striker so his and Messi’s position at the time did differ and as Guardiola pointed out, Messi is the complete package - not just in scoring.
“Almost every game, [Haaland] scores goals. And one or two goals in every game, he’s had the chance to do it,” said Guardiola. “But Messi is the most complete player I’ve ever seen, in vision, in passes, in dribbling, in competitiveness, and in many things that make it difficult [to compare with] anyone.”
It’s true that it’s not all about the numbers. A player’s success can be measured in many different ways. That said, though, Messi’s best year was in 2012, when he had 91 goals in a year. If Haaland can reach that peak, then we’ll come back to this conversation. He could very well do so if he continues to score at the rate he is now. With the right team around him, he could be the next Messi.
“Hopefully Erling can be so close like Leo,” said Guardiola. “It will be great for us, for the future of the team, and the team that will have him. But I’ve always said, I don’t help anyone by comparing to the Argentinian player.”