Pep Guardiola, the manager of Manchester City, denied rumors that Erling Haaland’s contract has a specific release clause allowing him to join Real Madrid in 2024.
Guardiola rejected rumors that Madrid had engineered an exclusive deal to sign the 22-year-old Norwegian striker after he continued his great start at City by scoring twice against Copenhagen in the Champions League.
“It’s not true,” Guardiola said. “He has not got a release clause for Real Madrid, or any other team.
“Am I annoyed by the rumours? No, absolutely not. Rumours, and people talking, you cannot control it – so always we have to worry about what we can control.
“The important thing is that he has adapted [since joining City] really well. I have the feeling he is incredibly happy here, and this is the most important thing.”
Given Haaland’s incredible run for City – he has now scored 19 goals in his first 12 games since signing from Borussia Dortmund in the summer – it is hardly unexpected to see him connected with the Spanish giants.
Even teammate Jack Grealish was taken aback by Haaland’s performance in Wednesday’s lopsided 5-0 victory over the Danish club. It was the latest example of his incredible scoring prowess.
“It’s unbelievable, honestly,” Jack Grealish told BT Sport. “I’ve never witnessed anything like it in my life. For the first and second goals, I was just laughing. He is always there.”
“Their keeper said something to me as I was walking back. He said ‘he’s not human!’ I said ‘you’re telling me?’ Hopefully he can carry on this form and take us to glory.”
Haaland would have had even more goals to celebrate if it weren’t for Copenhagen goalie Kamil Grabara’s fantastic saves.
Haaland opened the goal by finishing expertly off a Joao Cancelo cross with his first touch of the game. His next two attempts, a soaring header and a thunderous strike on the spin, were all brilliantly stopped.
Typically, this did not stop him, and after Sergio Gomez’s long-range drive was saved, he was in the perfect position to tap into an empty net to make it 2-0.
In order to complete his fourth hat-trick in six home games for City, Haaland simply required one more goal, but Guardiola ruined the celebration by bringing him off at halftime.
Guardiola admitted that switching out his top striker wasn’t always the plan, but with the match already won, he turned his attention to Saturday’s matchup against Southampton at home.
The choice was accepted by Haaland: the subsequent hat-trick can wait.
“I’ve got to be honest with you, with Erling what he wants is the same is the same as all of us, which is to win games,” Guardiola said.
“When he made those hat-tricks, it was to win the games. Of course if he played 45 more minutes, he would get more chances but he has played a lot of minutes, it was 3-0 and the game was under control.”
“If the game was tight then Erling would continue to play but it was better to rest and think of Southampton, a team we were not able to beat last season. Hopefully this season we can do it.”
Pep Guardiola on why Haaland came off halftime
Erling Haaland was given the chance to be replaced by Pep Guardiola during halftime of their Champions League victory over FC Copenhagen.
Haaland scored twice in the first 45 minutes against Copenhagen to help City set up a 3-0 lead, which was his third consecutive home hat-trick at the Etihad. He did not return after the interval; Cole Palmer took his place. After the game, the No. 9 ran a lap of honor around the stadium to allay any concerns about his fitness.
Guardiola acknowledged that taking Haaland off at halftime had not been in the original game plan, but he could not pass up the chance to rest him ahead of Saturday’s match against Southampton.
“He plays a lot of minutes, the game was under control and Cole Palmer is an excellent player and was looking forward to playing”, the coach noted. “If the game would have been tight Erling would have continued but it is better to rest for Southampton – who we weren’t able to beat last season.
“It’s not about resting players. We have a squad of 20 players if you just play 11 you don’t have 20 players. The other ones, when you need them, don’t work.”