Erling Haaland told he is three matches away from pipping Lionel Messi to Ballon d’Or
EXCLUSIVE: Erling Haaland has enjoyed a record-breaking debut season at Manchester City and Ruud Gullit believes he could win this year’s Ballon d’Or if City can finally win the Champions League
Ruud Gullit says Erling Haaland could win the Ballon d’Or – if Manchester City win the Champions League.
The Dutch legend believes the record-breaking goal machine will be bang in the frame for the coveted award if his club can land their first prize in European football’s Blue Ribband competition. Haaland faces stiff competition from the likes of seven-time winner Lionel Messi and French star Kylian Mbappe for their heroics in Qatar – but the former Chelsea and Newcastle United boss believes his hopes will be helped massively if Manchester City return from Istanbul with the trophy.
Gullit, speaking ahead of this week’s prestigious Laureus awards in Paris, said: “It’s very interesting – if Haaland wins the Champions League this year with Manchester City – then he could win the Ballon d’Or. He will be a very strong contender for it, for sure.
“As a footballer, he’s out of the ordinary. You can’t compare him to anyone. There’s always one freak of nature that comes out. We had that with Lionel Messi. He was out of the ordinary, too. But Haaland…how he scores is fantastic. He’s exceptional in front of goal, one of a kind.”
Votes for the prize take place after next month’s showpiece in Turkey and so Haaland will have the chance to excel on the biggest stage in European football. He will do so having broken the joint record – held over a 42-game season – by Alan Shearer and Andy Cole – earlier this week with a strike against West Ham.
Gullit said it was time to celebrate the moment because a bigger task now lies ahead. He said: “He made the right decision to go to Manchester City – because he knew Pep Guardiola played attacking football. It’s much more difficult to do that with a counter-attacking team.
“Therefore, it was the right choice for him. I’m not surprised he scores lots of goals, most of the strikers who play under Pep, score a lot. But now the pressure really starts because everyone is asking: ‘Can he do it again?’
“I think he likes that pressure. He puts pressure on himself. But it’s going to be tough to do it every year. If I were him, I would cherish this moment. What he’s done is fantastic – but can you do it the year after, and the year after that? So, his next goal will be to match – or better – what he has done.
“It is the most difficult thing in football. To maintain that level. It’s the most difficult part for Pep, too. That’s the reason why he buys players every year. To refresh the team – and to keep his own players fresh. And also the opposition isn’t standing still – they also are buying players.
“That’s the process he will be in next year. Does he have the ability to do so? Yes, for sure. But is he going to stay healthy? Will he pick up injuries? There are a lot of factors why he might not produce next year. Do we admire him for what he has done? Oh, yes, we do. We do.”
Gullit spoke ahead of the event in France which is held every year to pay tribute to the best in global sport. He said: “It’s the biggest prize for athletes. Football gets a lot of attention. But the Laureus awards is a very important. It’s a wonderful day to celebrate what they have.
“Some don’t earn much money, some do it for the love of the sport. It’s important to have this – we put them in the sunlight. That’s why I’m proud to be associated with it.”
Ruud Gullit is an ambassador for Laureus Sports. For more details on the World Sports Awards and the nominees for tomorrow night, go to http://www.laureus.com