Erling Haaland watches and rings every inch of Manchester City’s star attraction

Manchester City fans have more to celebrate than most. Between all the trophies and wonderful football, it’s hard to feel too sorry for them.

But top-level football is a strange profession. Title races aren’t particularly pleasant, especially with Liverpool breathing down your neck, and if you’re lucky enough to see them go – and how City did on the final day – you probably have around a week to go. celebrate this.

Soon it’s time to argue with strangers on the internet and worry about transfers. Before you know it, the season has started and Liverpool are breathing you in again.

So what a beautiful summer afternoon at the Etihad it was on Sunday. Now that transfers are an integral part of football, why not celebrate them? And so City unveiled their summer signings so far – minus the ailing Kalvin Phillips – in front of a large crowd on a scorching day that serves as a reminder that life and football aren’t always so bad.

The fact that City have four signings in place, a day before the start of pre-season, is impressive in itself – as any other Manchester club could attest.

But Erling Haaland was necessarily the big story. This is no affront to Phillips, Julian Alvarez or Stefan Ortega; Haaland is now the main attraction in the entire Premier League, such is his ability and reputation.

Alvarez, Haaland and Ortega are getting used to their new home – Phillips’ summer arrival was sick (Photo: Matt McNulty – Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)

The Haaland 9 shirts were easy to spot, worn by kids and adults alike (the new orange goalkeeper shirt also seems to be a hit with the kids), and the loudest cheers of the afternoon were reserved for the tall Norwegian .

It’s only been a year since City tried to sign Harry Kane, yet a number of supporters openly wanted everything to be pushed back for a year and for Haaland to come instead. He was so good and so sought after that it just didn’t seem possible at the time.

And now he is here. Or “he’s here and he’s perfect,” as Kim Kardashian once tweeted about the birth of her son.

Haaland watched every square inch of the star attraction on stage and in all footage, dominating the hosts and Alvarez himself. It’s hard not to have a presence at 6ft 4in but he wears it well, physical and footballing stature.

There were also plenty of Jack Grealish shirts in the crowd, and it’s a much-needed reminder that speaking well and endearing yourself to a crowd means nothing on the pitch. Grealish put in a solid 10 out of 10 performance when he was unveiled last summer, emerging as one of the most reliable multi-millionaires you can meet in Ibiza, but he hopes to show his best work on the pitch next season after 12 months of adjustment.

And so the fact that Haaland got the juices flowing doesn’t necessarily mean anything. But it helps on days like these where everything is a little less demanding – just ask the marketing people in town who were quick to notice that any Grealish content was by far the most popular, and absolutely anything Haaland related has easily broke those records.

He didn’t need to do too much to please the adoring crowd – just being there was enough – but he did his job well. When he was welcomed onstage after Ortega and Alvarez had their turn, he joined in the town chants, answered questions about his hair (“I love the Viking style”) and delighted attendees when asked which game he is most looking forward to. … “I don’t want to say the words… but Manchester United.”

We could have known it would be like that.

“Maybe I should have a fade in the UK, so I can fit in well?” he wrote on an Instagram Story the other week, a photo of himself wearing a purple Louis Vuitton hat. “No, I don’t have x eyebrows,” the following story read. “Anyway, enough sun for today and enough screen time for today, well done buddy.”

It didn’t take him long to pick up the chat from the training ground and he may have heard a few ‘cheer mates’ as fans gathered to get a signature on a shirt, ball or whatever they wanted. could put new boys under their noses. .

Later, when it came to the serious business of press conferences, he took it all in stride. A big “hello” when he walked into the room might not seem like much – and let’s be honest, it isn’t – but reporters will take all sorts of affection at this point.

He has a reputation for being dismissive of investigators – and it’s fair to say he’ll never talk for minutes on such matters – but his answers were enlightening all the same.

After correcting a reporter who said he first knew Alfie Haaland had a son when the youngster scored four goals against Brann in 2017 – ‘2018, yeah’ – the big striker with an even bigger reputation managed to play down all the big predictions, but in a completely natural and authentic way.

“Everything, everything,” he said candidly when asked what he could improve at City. “Headers, shot left foot, right foot, movement, on the ball, off the ball.”

He was asked about watching City play from afar and assured everyone that seeing and experiencing it – as he did for Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League last season – is completely different. “Suddenly I haven’t touched the ball for 25 minutes. Gundogan, can you stop playing tiki-taka all the time?!”

Noticeably, none of the day’s scorers wanted to make any predictions in the world. Alvarez avoided putting a specific number on his expected goals tally, and Haaland didn’t bother to speculate on how many assists Kevin De Bruyne might give him.

But there was a confidence about Haaland in the way he carried himself and spoke. When asked if he thought he could win the Champions League with City, he replied: “I’ve said it before, the Champions League is my favorite competition, so you have the answer there.”

And the thorny question of Real Madrid’s interest, and his interest in them, was broached when asked if he was ready now, at his fifth club at the age of 21, to move on. root somewhere for five to 10 years.

“I signed a five-year contract, so we have to start there,” he said.

Alvarez was actually asked if all the attention to Haaland could help him settle, and he said the same sort of things he said in all questions. He was asked on stage what the fans were waiting for? “Goals, assists and helping the team”, he said, and there was a lot of “helping the team”, which is perfectly normal, but it was more difficult to get an idea of ​​his personality on this occasion. There’s plenty of time for that, though.

More relevantly for now, he mentioned playing on the wings, as well as in the middle, and that could come in handy after the exits of Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling. He said he was ready to go straight away, having just arrived from the South American football schedule, which has been running since February.

Ortega was quite honest when his turn came: he says he hopes to usurp Ederson as No.1, but he knows he will be a substitute, and he joked that he would let Haaland score at the training to boost his confidence, given that he has never succeeded. that in the Bundesliga.

It will be fascinating to see Ortega in action, even if it happens in the Carabao Cup, as he has made some remarkable saves in the Bundesliga and his passing range is impressive. Alvarez is one of the most exciting prospects in world football – the months since his transfer announcement in January have been filled with goals for River Plate and he is stylistically perfect for Guardiola’s City, especially if the false 9s are always the way to go. .

But the day was always going to be all about Haaland. The whole season could be all about him, too, and for what it’s worth, he helped lighten up a sunny afternoon before the serious business began. Well done buddy.

(Photo: Manchester City FC/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)

Keith P. Plain