LOOK AT HIS FACE! JUST LOOK AT HIS FACE!
Pep Guardiola loves football, but he doesn’t always look like he enjoys it. Why would you, when you have a win percentage of 73 and enough medals to fill a lock-up just off the M60, yet are still routinely called a bald fraud by Social Media Disgrace Twitter’s finest? The perfectionist in Guardiola is always chasing something more, something purer. But it turns out the answer to eternal happiness is much simpler. All you need is a big, hulking, Nordic cheat-code.
When Erling Brute Haaland scored his second goal against FC Copenhagen on Wednesday, taking his tally to 19 in 12 games for City, Pep became an instant meme – again. He turned to the City bench, open mouthed and half-giggling while pointing over his shoulder at Haaland. In that moment he looked about 40 years younger, like a mischievous child whose most hated teacher had just sat on a whoopee cushion in front of the school governors. Haaland has taken an already terrifying City side to computer-game levels of goals. They’ve scored 40 in 11 games, which is more than some teams will manage in the entire season.
“It’s unbelievable, honestly,” said Jack Grealish, as The Fiver got a headache trying to decide whether unbelievability and honesty should be mutually exclusive. “I’ve never witnessed anything like it in my life,” continued the man who used to play alongside Rudy Gestede and Gabby Agbonlahor. “For the first and second goals, I was just laughing. Their keeper said to me: ‘He’s not human!’ I said: ‘You’re telling me?’ Hopefully he can carry on this form and take us to glory.”
Hopefully? There’s no hope about it, not for opposition teams. And given there is still no definitive evidence as to whether Haaland is human or cyborg, he could be scoring goals for the next 100 years. The only fly in the ointment is persistent speculation that he has a release clause of £174m that will be activated in 2024. Real Madrid are already keen, having calculated that a transfer fee of £174m would work out at approximately 12p per goal, but the received wisdom is that Haaland is at City for a good time – an exceedingly, orgiastically, hat-tricktastically good time – rather than a long time.
Guardiola’s not having that. “It’s not true,” he said, punching one of Fleet Street’s finest in the mush to emphasise the point. “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 really well. I have the feeling he is incredibly happy here, and this is the most important thing.” That and the fact it’s the first week of October, and Haaland has already scored enough goals to have his own Paul Hardcastle song.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I don’t know if he likes football. There were meetings when they said one thing and then I see him face to face, having travelled 30 hours, and it’s the complete opposite … We had been told not to try to win the cup, not to play our best team, and we took different decisions. We did what we thought a club like Valencia should do” – Marcelino García Toral talks to Sid Lowe about his time working for Peter Lim, his tenure at Athletic and the possibility of taking charge of Spain.
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“Re: yesterday’s Quote of the Day. I really don’t know how Reggina manager Pippo Inzaghi looked after the VAR decision that went Inter’s way against Barcelona, but I can assure you that his younger brother Simone (the current manager of Inter) in that picture looks indeed more sheepish than an embarrassed Welsh lamb” – Bogdan Kotarlic (and 1,056 others).
“Re: yesterday’s Fiver letters. You can get an archived version of the old Fiver Wiki page here” – Matt Johnson.
“Great to see the Albion featuring as the headline slot in yesterday’s Fiver, as well as first slot on ITV’s Championship highlights show (where the analysis is so cutting-edge, Alan Shearer could get a job). Us Baggies should cherish these days of media saturation while we can. Apparently Steve Bruce has now done 44 consecutive seasons as a player or manager – sigh. Can The Fiver do a more targeted Stop Football campaign in the region of his house?” – Tom Levesley.
“Copenhagen tried a novel approach against Manchester City by trying to disguise their goalkeeper as Batman. Perhaps one of their more homegrown gods, such as Odin or Thor, would have more chance against Erling Haaland and the rest of his buddies?” – Nigel Sanders.
“Re: Erik ten Hag thanking Manchester City for their derby thrashing (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs). This was a reminder, no doubt, to all football fans that our game is simply a reflection of the society it is encased in, that trickle-down football is a subset of trickle-down economics” – John Weldon.
Send your letters to email@example.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Tom Levesley.