Erling Haaland is a ‘ball magnet’ who can match Messi and Ronaldo, says City teammate
John Stones believes Erling Haaland would thrive off the pressure of being expected to score the number of goals Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo used to after the Manchester City striker became only the third player ever to score five times in a Champions League.
Haaland joined Messi and Luiz Adriano in a select band by finding the net five times in City’s 7-0 win over RB Leipzig on Tuesday, taking him to a club record 39 goals in a season with up to 19 matches more remaining.
Messi scored 73 times in his most prolific season – under current City manager Pep Guardiola in 2011-12 – and had five other campaigns where he got at least 50 goals while Ronaldo struck more than 50 times in six successive years at his peak.
And while Stones feels Haaland does not have a target in mind, he thinks the summer signing would relish the challenge to get as many as two era-defining players mustered.
“I believe he really could do what he wants, just from his hunger and his attitude and his professionalism and I'd love to see him do it, definitely,” he said. “I think he wants to just win. I think if you have that mentality, then the personal accolades just come naturally without chasing them. That could be totally wrong but I think Erling is a huge team player and with that kind of mindset, he's going that way to break more records.”
Haaland is the top scorer in this season’s Champions League so far and Stones revealed the description Jack Grealish coined for the former Borussia Dortmund forward because of the way chances fall to him.
“Erling is in the right spot at the right time,” he said. “An ‘absolute ball magnet’, I think Jack was calling him in the dressing room after. I get to see it first hand on the pitch and big players turn up on big occasions.”
Haaland got the match ball for his fifth City hat-trick and Stones, who admitted he has been surprised at the impact the £51m man has had, signed the memento. “I mean I knew he was good but...” he said. “I'm so happy for him. I keep writing on the balls, a nice funny message.”
Stones, who is in his seventh season at City, said he would like to finish his career at the Etihad Stadium.
He added: “I absolutely love it here. I'd love to play as long as I can and I really do feel like it's my home. I really do love everything about it: the people I see day in day out, the fans, my team-mates and I've got my best memories in football. I've got a lot of memories but yeah, I absolutely love it. I'd love to play as long as I can definitely, if the club allows me.”