Pep Guardiola has sarcastically dismissed Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s claim that ego could prevent the Manchester City manager from making Erling Haaland even better.
Haaland has begun superbly at City, scoring 22 goals in 15 appearances, yet Guardiola believes the striker can improve. Ibrahimovic has a long-running feud with the Catalan that dates to their clashing at Barcelona in the 2009-10 season.
Guardiola was asked about Ibrahimovic’s claim regarding his ego. “He is right, he is completely right,” the manager said. “In this club, in this team, my ego is beyond every other person, every player. I don’t like it when Erling scores three goals, and all the highlights are for him. I am so jealous! Honestly, so jealous!
“I said: ‘Erling, please no more goals otherwise [newspapers] won’t talk about me, and just about me.’ He is right, he knows me perfectly. He can write another book.”
Asked whether he was being sarcastic, Guardiola said: “No, I am right in what I am saying. My ego is [through the roof].”
This week Ibrahimovic told Canal+: “Is Guardiola able to improve him? That depends on the ego that Guardiola has. If he allows himself to be bigger than Haaland or not. He didn’t allow me or the others to be as big.”
Haaland has missed his side’s past two games with a foot problem but returned to training on Thursday in advance of Fulham’s visit on Saturday. “He’s much better,” Guardiola said. “We will decide today [Friday]. Train this afternoon and will see. It will depend on himself, his opinion and doctor’s opinion – if he is good for 90 minutes or less.”
City are second with 29 points and Guardiola named the leaders, Arsenal, plus Tottenham, Chelsea, Newcastle, Manchester United and Liverpool as other title contenders.
Of Eddie Howe’s Newcastle side he said: “They have incredible physicality to the way they play and are playing one game a week. They are not playing in Europe and when this happens that’s a big advantage when you arrive in the last months. They have a good manager, top-class players, they have experienced ones – I imagine they are going to stay there for a long time.”