Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola believes football managers are “overrated” when it comes to their influence on players as he raises more questions about how to deal with Erling Haaland in his squad.
City’s new Norwegian hotshot has 12 goals in seven games for the Premier League champions, but Guardiola showed his annoyance after last week’s 4-0 win over Sevilla that Haaland’s team-mates wanted to give the ball very quickly to their new striker.
With Haaland now preparing for a quick reunion with former club Borussia Dortmund in Wednesday’s second-round Champions League tie, the City manager – widely regarded as one of the best managers in the game – believes the level of intelligence of the of footballers is what defines the results.
“It’s not what you have to do, it’s when you have to do it. That’s why football is so difficult,” Guardiola said in his pre-match press conference ahead of the visit to Dortmund. “I said many times when we make it [analysis] video and we pause it and say: “Look guys, the space is there” – that’s fake.
“How you have to make the decision, how many times you do it: it belongs only to the players. I’ve said it many times: we coaches are overrated in our influence.
“The game belongs to them [the players]decisions must be made and they can be expressed [their game] and do it as many times as they want. You can miss it sometimes when the pass is open.”
“Haaland can still improve” | Gundogan: The future is bright
Haaland became the fastest player to reach 10 Premier League goals earlier this month and his score against Sevilla last week has many analysts questioning whether the 22-year-old’s influence will bring City a first Champions League title.
But even though the Norwegian forward is already watching the records fall – just a month after making his professional debut at City – Guardiola believes Haaland is not even at his best.
“He’s young and hungry. Individually he can improve,” the City boss added. “He can be better, that’s for sure. Connecting with his friends and timing will make him a better player.”
Those words were echoed by City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, who set up Haaland for his first goal at West Ham last month.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” said the German – who also joined City from Dortmund. He’s doing great on the field, but his character, attitude and determination off the field is incredible.
“For such a young lad he is very mature and his future is very bright. He will show us a lot more, not only this season but in the years to come. The club have signed an incredible player and man. Obviously he has a proper No 9 and a striker who is physically strong will help us a lot.”
Asked if Haaland could be the difference for City in the Champions League, Gundogan said: “We’ll see. The Champions League is an incredible thing to achieve.
“It will be a very difficult competition and small details can decide the result. We will try this season to go as far as possible and play a good role in this competition again.”