Pep Guardiola labelled Kevin De Bruyne Manchester City's "key man" after the midfielder scored four in a 5-1 thrashing of Wolves, while he expressed his excitement to manage Erling Haaland next season.

City ran riot at Molineux to restore their three-point lead over Liverpool at the Premier League summit, and now need just four points from their final two games to win a second consecutive league title.

De Bruyne became the fourth different player to score four goals for City in a Premier League match (after Edin Dzeko, Gabriel Jesus, and Sergio Aguero – who did so on three occasions), as City bolstered their goal difference, which could yet prove to be crucial in the title race.

City are now unbeaten in 10 Premier League games (eight wins, two draws), and have become the first team in English top-flight history to win five consecutive games by a margin of three or more goals.

Guardiola's men also became the first team to have five or more shots on target while scoring each in a Premier League game since Liverpool in December 2019 (a 5-2 win against Everton), thanks in large part to De Bruyne's incredible display of finishing.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the win, Guardiola hailed the midfielder as "incredible" after he reached 19 goals for the season in all competitions, saying he had been City's most important player in the run-in.

"The way he's playing in the last two or three months, especially in the Premier League, has been outstanding. In the Champions League as well," he said. "He has been our key man in the last part of the season. 

"It's not just what he creates and the goals and everything, I'm happy because he always had a sense for the assists and was so generous, always thinking what's best for the team.

"But we always tried to push him, [saying] 'you have to win games, you have to score goals', and this year I think is his most prolific season in this sense."

City were widely criticised after falling to a 6-5 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals last week, but responded with consecutive thrashings of Newcastle United and Wolves.

Guardiola was keen to praise his team's character after they produced a dominant performance on their first away trip since Madrid.

"Did you have any doubts after what these guys have done in the last five years? They have personality, they have character, they have everything," he added. 

"We were in control, we started really well, scored a goal, and one moment where we didn't defend the transition properly we conceded a goal [Leander Dendoncker's equaliser]. After, we found the goal quick and it helped us a lot."

Although City have already hit 94 Premier League goals this season, their attack will be further bolstered after the announcement that Borussia Dortmund striker Haaland has agreed a move to the Etihad Stadium.

Guardiola said he was excited to work with the Norway star, who has hit 85 goals in all competitions since joining Dortmund in January 2020, and believes the 21-year-old will have no problem adapting in England.

"It's a decision for the club to make a good signing for the future, he'll come for many, many years, hopefully. I'm pretty sure he'll adapt perfectly to our team, but it will be next season," he added on Haaland.

"I'm excited in my job and of course, I like to work with good players, because the players make you a good manager. 

"Of course, he's an incredible young talent with a perfect age, and I'm pretty sure we're going to help him settle as quickly as possible."

Kevin De Bruyne hailed his four-goal haul as "special" after Manchester City restored their three-point lead at the top of the Premier League by thrashing Wolves 5-1 – but said he should have scored more.

After watching Liverpool beat Aston Villa 2-1 on Tuesday, City ran riot at Molineux as De Bruyne scored four goals, the first three coming in the opening 24 minute to help put Pep Guardiola's team within four points of the Premier League title.

De Bruyne's initial treble represented the third fastest hat-trick at the start of a Premier League game, after Sadio Mane's 16-minute salvo against Aston Villa in May 2015 and Dwight Yorke's 22-minute feat against Arsenal in February 2001.

The Belgian then added a fourth after an hour, becoming just the second City player to hit a quartet of goals in an away Premier League game after Edin Dzeko against Tottenham in August 2011.

De Bruyne, who is enjoying his best goalscoring season for City after reaching 19 strikes in all competitions, was delighted with his showing, but insisted he should have added a fifth when striking the post late on.

"[It was] pretty nice! When you score four goals its always something special, it should have been five to be honest," he told Sky Sports. 

"I think we played well, maybe except a couple of counters in the first half, I think we controlled the game well.

"We could even have scored more, and to do that against a Wolves team that's really defensively sound was impressive. I think our front four were able to find the right moments to go deep or come in, and it worked really well. 

"My right foot is my stronger foot, but I'm not afraid to shoot with the left. Even if it doesn't go in, it creates a problem for the opposition".

Wolves coach Carlos Cachada, meanwhile, said the hosts could do little to stop De Bruyne's talismanic display, telling Sky Sports: "When it comes to players like this they can score four goals and finish the game, with that performance, we can do nothing about it."

City's dominant win saw them extend their unbeaten Premier League run to 10 games (eight wins, two draws), and they now need just four points from their final two games to wrap up the title. 

De Bruyne, however, insists Liverpool could still make up the required three-point and seven-goal swing, saying the two teams had set a "crazy" standard.

"We know at the moment we have a little bit of an advantage in goal difference, but even with seven, with Liverpool that can happen," he added. "We just need to concentrate on Sunday, it's going to be a really tough game at West Ham, so we need to recover and be ready.

"It's a little bit crazy, the standards we both set, you can only respect it. We know how hard it is, and both teams have ultimate respect. We play hard, that's all we can do."

The Premier League title is the only major trophy available to City this term after they crashed out of the Champions League with a stunning 6-5 aggregate loss to Real Madrid last week.

While De Bruyne, who was substituted before Madrid launched their remarkable comeback at the Santiago Bernabeu, was still disappointed with that loss, he said it was time for City to move on. 

"Its very difficult to explain because it was just a mad five minutes. It's not that we played bad or something, it was just five minutes that you can't explain as a player," he recalled.

"I don't know what happened, I was out of control on the bench anyway, so you feel a little bit in shock, it's not nice and the feeling is still not nice.

"But you need to move on, we're trying now to win the title and whatever happened unfortunately happened, we have to move on."

Kevin De Bruyne recorded an astonishing four-goal haul as Manchester City restored their three-point lead at the Premier League summit with a 5-1 win over Wolves.

In Ruben Dias, John Stones, and Kyle Walker, Pep Guardiola's team were missing several key defenders as they looked to respond to Liverpool's 2-1 win over Aston Villa on Tuesday, but recorded a routine victory courtesy of a talismanic showing from De Bruyne.

The Belgian's hat-trick, sealed with a stunning left-footed strike from long range, put City in charge after Leander Dendoncker briefly restored parity in an absorbing first half.

De Bruyne grabbed a fourth to make the points safe before Raheem Sterling rounded off the scoring late on, as City took another huge step towards defending their title.

Guardiola's men needed just seven minutes to hit the front, with De Bruyne playing a brilliant one-two with Bernardo Silva before drilling a low effort into the bottom-right corner. 

Wolves responded within four minutes when Dendoncker converted Pedro Neto's cut-back following a devastating counter-attack, but the visitors were back in front after 16 minutes when De Bruyne latched onto a loose ball to fire into the roof of the net.

The midfielder secured his treble nine minutes later as he arrowed a terrific strike into the bottom-left corner after 24 minutes.

The visitors were denied a fourth as Sterling was flagged offside having tucked home two minutes after the restart, but ended the contest when De Bruyne steered in after Rayan Ait Nouri's weak clearance after 60 minutes. 

De Bruyne teed up Phil Foden to side-foot against the post before Sterling wrapped up another dominant City win by tapping home a late fifth, with De Bruyne then striking the woodwork himself at the end of a terrific performance.

What does it mean? City remain in pole position

De Bruyne's brilliance saw City overcome their defensive injury crisis to extend their unbeaten run to 10 Premier League games (eight wins, two draws) as they edge closer to consecutive titles.

With only West Ham and Aston Villa to play, Guardiola's men require just four points to beat Liverpool to their eighth top-flight title.

Devastating De Bruyne stars

De Bruyne's four strikes took him to 19 goals in all competitions this term, his best tally in a single season for the club, and restored City's all-important advantage over Liverpool.

Meanwhile, the Belgian became just the second City player to score four goals in an away Premier League game, after Edin Dzeko did so at Tottenham in August 2011.

City extend record away run

The victory ensured City stretched their unbeaten away run to 17 away Premier League matches (14 wins, three draws) – the longest such sequence in the club's league history.

However, Dendoncker's goal prevented Guardiola's side from keeping a sixth consecutive away clean sheet in the competition.

What's next?

City continue their push for the title when they travel to West Ham on Sunday, while Wolves host relegated Norwich City on the same day.

Mikel Arteta refused to comment on whether Arsenal want to sign Gabriel Jesus with Erling Haaland on his way to Manchester City.

City on Tuesday confirmed the club have reached an agreement in principle with Borussia Dortmund to bring prolific Norway striker Haaland to the Etihad Stadium ahead of next season.

Haaland's imminent arrival would suggest starts would be even more limited for Jesus, who has netted eight Premier League goals this season.

The Brazil international's agent, Marcelo Pettinati, said in an interview with Fabrizio Romano that he has held talks with Arsenal over a potential switch to the London club.

"We had talks with Arsenal about Gabriel Jesus," he said. "We like the project – it’s a possibility we're discussing.

"There are six more clubs interested in Gabriel. He's focused on the final games with Man City. We'll see."

Arteta would not be drawn over a possible move for Jesus on the eve of a huge derby showdown at Tottenham on Wednesday.

The Gunners head coach said: "You know that I don’t talk about any players that are not with us."

Asked if he wanted to add to his strike force, Arteta replied: "I'm looking for the strikers that we have in the team. This is my focus for the next three games."

Arsenal will check on the fitness of England internationals Ben White and Bukayo Saka ahead of the short trip to Spurs.

Midfielder Thomas Partey misses out once again as Arteta's side seek a win that would seal Champions League qualification. 

The Gunners have won four consecutive games to stand on the brink securing a top-four finish and Arteta is determined to make it mission accomplished in their fierce rivals' own backyard.

Arteta said: "The message is clear, if we win against them we will play in the Champions League next season. You don't need much more motivation than that."

Erling Haaland is a "great player" who is joining a "great club" in Manchester City, but Carlo Ancelotti suggested he is not overly upset at missing out on the much-coveted striker.

City confirmed on Tuesday they have reached an agreement to sign Haaland, who had been linked with an array of clubs across Europe – Ancelotti's Real Madrid among them.

Haaland's 85 goals in 88 games since joining Dortmund in January 2020 is bettered only by Robert Lewandowski (122) and Kylian Mbappe (89) across Europe's top five leagues.

But Madrid already boast a prolific striker of their own in Karim Benzema, whose 57 direct goal involvements in all competitions is unmatched in the continent's major divisions.

While Ancelotti has made no secret that he is a fan of Haaland, he is happy with his current squad, having already wrapped up his first LaLiga title and reached the Champions League final thanks to their sensational comeback against City last week.

"I don't really like to talk about this," Ancelotti said at a news conference on Wednesday when asked about Haaland's imminent switch to the Premier League leaders.

"He's a great player, City's a great club. But I'm sticking with my squad, which has led me to enjoy another Champions League final."

Madrid set up a showdown with Liverpool in Paris by overcoming City in a remarkable semi-final tie that they trailed 5-3 with a minute of normal time remaining.

Los Blancos followed that up with a 1-0 loss to rivals Atletico Madrid last weekend in a game that saw Ancelotti make seven changes to his starting line-up.

Ancelotti confirmed the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior will each return for Thursday's visit of Levante, who have lost just one of their last four trips to face Madrid in LaLiga.

Despite the title being secured with four games to spare, Ancelotti insists his side are not yet focusing on their upcoming clash with Liverpool at the Stade de France on May 28.

"The time we have spent together since the Atletico match has been looking only at tomorrow's game," he said. 

"It's important we give minutes to those who didn't play against Atletico, and then we have another game on Sunday. We are not preparing for the final.

"Tomorrow is a game that we have to play well to win. The objective is the same: keep a good rhythm, play well with the ball and win the match.

"If you lose competitiveness, you will not do well. They must rest, but also play in order to reach 100 per cent. 

"All this time it has been said that Ancelotti did not rotate and now that he does, nobody is happy. You have to give minutes to players."

Even with Haaland no longer on the market, Madrid are expected to strengthen in attack, with Mbappe their main target.

But Ancelotti was once again unwilling to discuss any potential targets, with Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger another rumoured to be on Madrid's radar. In fact, reports on Tuesday suggested the deal had been done to bring the Germany defender to Santiago Bernabeu on a free transfer.

"After the final there will be time to talk about this. For now, we are just aiming to finish the season well," he said.

"Talking about the future transfer window is not correct, I don't want to. I want to talk about tomorrow's match. It is the day to talk about this, not about alleged new signings."

Ilkay Gundogan will find other ways to keep himself occupied when Liverpool face Real Madrid in the Champions League final as he is still "angry" at Manchester City's exit.

City were eliminated at the semi-final stage last week with a remarkable 6-5 aggregate defeat to Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Last season's beaten finalists, who have yet to win UEFA's showpiece competition, were ahead 5-3 in the tie with less than a minute of normal time remaining in the Spanish capital before Rodrygo scored twice and Karim Benzema netted an extra-time penalty.

And while he openly admits to being obsessed with all things football, Gundogan has no intention of tuning in to watch City's conquerors Madrid take on Liverpool in Paris.

"If I think about the final in Paris then I get very angry," he told the Daily Mail. "Frustrated, disappointed. I'm definitely not going to watch it. 

"I will definitely try to do something else that day. Nothing is going to really help; the only thing that will is time. 

"It's becoming a little bit easier, even though you know – yet again – you've missed a big chance to lift a possible trophy."

He added: "Maybe there's not much we can tell ourselves that we did wrong but at the end of the day, we conceded two goals in two minutes. 

"We were not there when it was necessary and we were not focused enough. It was not enough. That is the blame we give ourselves."

Gundogan, a second-half substitute in the second leg against Madrid, has won eight major trophies with City – but European silverware continues to elude him and the club.

That could soon become nine trophies as City will be crowned Premier League champions for a fourth time in five years if they win their remaining three matches.

City have been pushed all the way by Liverpool, who they have battled it out with for domestic honours over the past few seasons, though the rivalry remains relatively peaceful.

That is a far cry from the days when matters would often boil over both before and after matches between title rivals Manchester United and Arsenal.

Gundogan, who also won the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund in 2011-12, insists football has moved on in recent years.

"Those kind of rivalries don't really exist anymore in modern football," he said. "For some people who are more old school you know, that might be bad. 

"The game is not like, I don't know, 20-30 years ago, with people on the pitch killing each other and intentionally trying to injure. 

"That's not how we want the game to be. I want fairness. I want respect. Just because there's a rivalry we don't need to kill each other on or off the pitch."

Sadio Mane has been speculated as a potential Ballon d'Or winner in recent weeks.

And the Liverpool forward is also gathering speculation about his club future.

The 30-year-old helped Senegal win the Africa Cup of Nations in February and has netted 15 goals in Liverpool's Premier League title challenge.

TOP STORY – BARCA TO SWOOP FOR BAYERN TARGET MANE

Barcelona are ready to swoop in to sign Liverpool's Mane amid reported interest from Bayern Munich, Mundo Deportivo claims.

The Senegal international is reportedly interested in a switch and is moving into the final 12 months of his Liverpool contract.

Barcelona have missed out on Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland who will join Manchester City and are determined to land an elite forward this off-season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bayern Munich's Serge Gnabry is drawing attention from several clubs, with Real Madrid among the clubs interested, according to Fichajes.

- Newcastle United have made contact with Philippe Coutinho about a move, reports Goal. Coutinho is currently on loan with Aston Villa from Barcelona.

- The Guardian claims that West Ham United are plotting an off-season move for Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins. Villa would demand a £50m fee for the forward.

- Manchester United and Newcastle are both interested in signing Napoli's Victor Osimhen, claims Calciomercato. Napoli want 100m euros (£85.5m) for the Nigerian forward.

- Super Deporte claims that Sevilla are interested in a transfer for Arsenal's Nicolas Pepe.

Paul Dickov says Erling Haaland will complement Manchester City despite the array of talent already there, propelling them to a higher level.

Ending months of speculation on Tuesday, City confirmed Haaland's transfer from Borussia Dortmund has been agreed in principle.

Meanwhile, City are in the box seat to win their second consecutive Premier League title and sixth in ten years, level with Liverpool atop the table but with a game in hand.

Dickov, who played for the Sky Blues alongside Haaland's father Alf-Inge, spoke exclusively with Stats Perform and believes the 21-year-old striker will help City progress even further under Pep Guardiola.

"They won it last year without having an out-and-out centre forward," Dickov said. "I know it's so tight this year, but as we stand at the minute, it's a little bit of an advantage to Manchester City - they've shown they can do it without signing one.

"I think if Erling Haaland had been in this team this year, City would have been out of sight weeks ago, and so on. It's scary to think about it, but it's going to take them to a completely different level now.

"I've followed Erling a long time, obviously, the connection I've got with his dad, and the improvement from his first time for Dortmund to now. His all-round game even in the last season or so, for somebody that's only 21, the maturity of the game management, it shows when he went there, there was an out-and-out goal scorer that he is now."

 

The Norway international has scored 28 goals in 29 appearances in all competitions despite an injury-interrupted campaign.

Irrespective of the talent-packed squad City already have and Guardiola's setup, Dickov is confident Haaland will fill the void up front for City, who were strongly linked with Harry Kane last season.

"The people can argue against that and say City scored five at the weekend, a couple of weeks ago against Watford, four against Leeds, you know, but they have been missing that out and out number nine," he said.

"I think any player that comes in to Manchester City, it's a new way of playing for them. A new style, they've got quality players within there already, and I look at Erling's improvement.

"With players like De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva, and you could go on and on, but the amount of chances that they do create, they've just needed an out-and-out finisher to do it and Erling Haaland is one of the best in the world."

Jurgen Klopp believes despite Erling Haaland's individual quality, Manchester City will improve him and not the other way around.

Liverpool's Premier League title rivals confirmed on Tuesday they have reached an agreement in principle with Borussia Dortmund for Haaland's transfer.

The 21-year-old has scored 28 goals in 29 appearances for Dortmund this year and will be expected to fill the void up front for City, who were strongly linked with Harry Kane last year.

Klopp was quick to suggest that while Haaland is an undeniable talent, the nature of City's play under Pep Guardiola means they are more likely to transform the Norwegian striker than adjust to him.

"City was never and will never be a team that wins games because of one player," Klopp told reporters after seeing his Liverpool team beat Aston Villa 2-1 on Tuesday.

"There's a specific way to play, and I think Erling will realise he will score a lot of goals on the second post if he just puts a foot onto it.

"He will love that, and now we have other situations where he's a real beast. He was now injured a couple of times at Dortmund but when he's a fit he's a real beast. Unfortunately, a really good signing."

Liverpool momentarily moved level on points with City atop the Premier League following their triumph at Villa Park, but the defending champions play their game in hand against Wolves on Wednesday.

Jurgen Klopp labelled Sadio Mane "a machine" after the Senegal forward kept Liverpool's title hopes alive with the winning goal in Tuesday's 2-1 win at Aston Villa.

Liverpool were aiming to bounce back from the disappointment of dropping points in a 1-1 draw with Tottenham on Saturday, a stalemate that allowed Manchester City to move three clear at the summit.

The Reds then appeared to be in danger of seeing City climb even further ahead when Douglas Luiz put Villa in front in the third minute at Villa Park.

Joel Matip quickly restored parity and Mane got the decisive goal just past the hour, awkwardly rotating his body to meet Luis Diaz's cross and plant a header in the bottom-right corner.

That was Mane's 15th Premier League goal of the season, which have come every 182.3 minutes on average, making Liverpool just the second team in Premier League history to have three players (Mane, Diogo Jota and Mohamed Salah) reach that figure in a single season.

But it was more than just the goal that impressed Klopp. No player on the pitch engaged in more duels than Mane (16), and his manager wanted to commend the all-round work rate on display.

"He's a machine, I told him after the game," Klopp told Sky Sports. "He is a massive player, massive player. His physicality is brutal.

"He is a mix of technique, desire and physicality when at the moment everyone has a few yards in the legs – you can't see it [fatigue] with him, to be honest.

"Top goal, he is just a fantastic, world-class player."

On the goal, Klopp added to BBC Sport: "The whole situation was class. It was top class. Luis crossing in a moment when nobody expected it apart from Sadio.

"We did not have time to train and work on it, and I am happy in this moment he pretended to shoot and crossed.

"It is difficult for the goalie and all of a sudden he puts his head there, and it is nice and soft, but it was a goal."

The result lifted Liverpool back level with City on points, but Pep Guardiola's men play their game in hand on Wednesday against a Wolves side who have lost three of their previous four games.

Sadio Mane's second-half winner secured Liverpool a vital 2-1 victory at Aston Villa on Tuesday to keep the pressure on Manchester City in the Premier League title race.

After the 1-1 draw with Tottenham on Saturday, Liverpool's championship hopes looked bleak while they were being held to the same scoreline at Villa Park, but the Reds' superior quality ultimately came up trumps.

Much of the pre-match attention focused on how Liverpool legend and Villa manager Steven Gerrard could be the one to further derail his former side's quadruple bid, and Douglas Luiz's early opener suggested a shock could be on the cards.

But Joel Matip swiftly equalised, and from that point Liverpool were generally the greater threat, eventually completing the turnaround just past the hour thanks to Mane.

Liverpool's underwhelming start culminated in a defensive mix-up between Kostas Tsimikas and Matip allowing Douglas Luiz to test Alisson and then smash home the rebound.

But the Reds quickly levelled through Matip in the sixth minute, prodding into the empty net after Virgil van Dijk beat Emiliano Martinez to a loose ball in the Villa box.

While Liverpool struggled to establish any real control in a feisty first half, the better chances continued to go their way as Mane headed just wide and Naby Keita comically mishit an attempt from 10 yards with the goal at his mercy.

It was a tighter affair in the second half, though Liverpool's next clear-cut opportunity proved decisive.

Luis Diaz did well to pick out Mane from the left, and the Senegal forward brilliantly twisted his body to meet the cross with a header into the bottom-right corner, with Villa failing to hit back as Danny Ings had a goal disallowed for offside.

Even when Jack Grealish charged into the penalty area in the 87th at the Santiago Bernabeu last week and saw his shot cleared off the line by Ferland Mendy, there seemed no way Manchester City wouldn't be in the Champions League final.

They were already 1-0 up on the night, 5-3 up on aggregate. Real Madrid had three minutes plus stoppage time to turn things around – even for a side that produced some memorable comebacks en route to the semi-finals, turning things around looked impossible.

Yet we all know how the tale unfolded in a matter of minutes, with City's Champions League aspirations dissolving for another season.

Over the course of the two legs, City were comfortably the better team and few would disagree with the idea that they're almost certainly better equipped than Madrid to stop Liverpool in the final.

City's failure served to highlight a key deficiency in their squad. Whether that's fair or not is up for debate, because they look destined to win the Premier League title again and no one would've questioned the legitimacy of them seeing off Madrid, but when the victor is led by the type of figure the loser is lacking, it's an easy conclusion to jump to.

Karim Benzema may not have been at his unplayable best in the second leg last week, but he won and converted the ultimately decisive penalty, and the effectiveness with which he led the line in the first leg ensured Madrid were still in with a shout upon the return to Spain.

City will now hope they have such a goalscoring talisman in Erling Haaland.

The club confirmed on Tuesday that Haaland will join at the end of the season, with City apparently set to pay £51.3million (€60m) to Borussia Dortmund for his transfer. Even when you consider the apparently significant agents' fees et cetera, it's difficult to see this as anything other than a bargain for City.

Of course, while the timing of the signing might frame it as a reaction to Champions League elimination, it's clearly not. Reports have suggested for weeks that the deal was virtually done and Haaland was going to follow in his father's footsteps by signing for City.

However, it's hard not to look at the deal through the prism of Champions League failure because of what will now be expected – rather than hoped for – with a player like Haaland in the team.

When trying to understand what has specifically gone wrong for City in the Champions League since Guardiola was hired, most people seem to have different opinions. Some might point to an apparent lack of on-field leaders, others highlight wastefulness at crucial moments, and of course there are many who have bemoaned Pep's dreaded "overthinking".

The idea of there being a lack of on-field leaders has always seemed wide of the mark, while no one can accuse Guardiola of overcomplicating his selections against Madrid – even if they did try to claim that, City were on course for the final until the 90th minute of the second leg.

Similarly, wastefulness is something most clubs can be accused of at one time or another and, in fact, across all the Champions League ties from which City have been eliminated under Guardiola, they have scored 17 times from 16.99 expected goals (xG). Granted, there were occasions where they didn't score as often as they should have, but over time it evens itself out.

Yet perhaps this is where Haaland can make the difference. Sure, City's xG has evened out over the unsuccessful ties in question, but with a striker as freakishly deadly as the Norwegian, there becomes a greater opportunity to finish chances that maybe you wouldn't generally expect to.

Haaland is a pure finisher unlike any other player in the world. Since his Bundesliga debut on January 18, 2020, he has scored 85 times from 69.7 xG across all competitions. Similarly, when excluding penalties he remains almost as potent, with 75 goals from 60.2 np-xG.

In both instances he has scored roughly 15 more goals than he should have based on the quality of his chances – among players with 30 or more goals over the same period, only Son Heung-min (16.1 and 16.5) can boast better xG differential figures. Again, ordinarily you'd expect this to even out over time, with such form usually unsustainable – but when you make the implausible look routine, this is the output you can produce.

One thing you cannot accuse City of is being ineffective when it comes to controlling football matches and creating chances – they wouldn't be about to claim a third Premier League title in four years if they were.

But in knockout ties when there is such a limited amount of time to respond to setbacks or make amends for certain mistakes, whether that's defensive or in front of goal, the value of the greatest strikers can shine through even more: Benzema showed that against City.

While there are likely to be stylistic compatibility questions to be asked regarding City and Haaland, particularly given the Premier League champions-elect haven't really played with an out-and-out striker for a couple of years now, they suddenly have arguably the finest finisher of his generation in their arsenal.

If Haaland isn't the final piece of the puzzle in City's quest for a maiden Champions League crown, Guardiola might as well give up.

The worst-kept secret in football is finally out – Erling Haaland will be a Manchester City player from next season onwards.

The Norway international will bring the curtain down on a two-and-a-half-year stay with Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga to join the Premier League champions, who confirmed a deal in principle on Tuesday.

The arrival of the Leeds-born forward at the Etihad Stadium – to a club where his father played two decades ago – brings one of the game's hottest talents to British shores.

In addition, it fills the gap Pep Guardiola has sought to occupy since Sergio Aguero's exit at the end of last term and further bolsters City's already fearsome arsenal.

As the Opta numbers from his time at Dortmund illustrate, Haaland could well prove to be the man that finally makes the difference for City in the Champions League.

3 – The number of minutes it took Haaland to score on debut for Dortmund against Augsburg, after coming on as a second-half substitute. He went on to score a hat-trick.

85  Haaland has scored 85 goals since arriving in Germany from Salzburg at the start of 2020. Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (122) and Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe (89) are the only two players across Europe's top five leagues to have scored more in that span.

86.84 – The minutes-per-goal average posted so far by Haaland across his Dortmund career in the Bundesliga. He has recorded a marginally lesser 86.90 this season alone.

23 – Haaland's all-time goal haul in the Champions League, the most a player has scored by the age of 21, two ahead of Mbappe.

2 – The number of players to have scored more Champions League goals than Haaland since his competition debut – Lewandowski (33) and Karim Benzema (26).

14  Haaland needed just 14 games to score 20 goals in the Champions League, the fewest in the competition's history ahead of Harry Kane (24).

64  His minutes-per-goal ratio in the Champions League, which is the best among players to have scored 20-plus goals in the competition. Mario Gomez (102) is second.

32.31 – The conversion rate enjoyed by the Norway star in the Bundesliga this term.

It is finally official. Manchester City will be the new home of Erling Haaland next season after the announcement of an agreement with Borussia Dortmund for the superstar's capture.

Barring an unexpected issue with personal terms, the striker will arrive after two and a half years in the Bundesliga to bring even more firepower to the Premier League champions.

Having flirted with Tottenham's Harry Kane throughout last year's pre-season transfer window without landing their man, City have decided to go down the Haaland route to finally bring in the number nine they have sought since Sergio Aguero left.

Pep Guardiola has told anyone who will listen all season how incredible it is that his team has maintained the standards they have "without a striker", which can't have made Gabriel Jesus feel all that good about himself, let's be honest.

But can Haaland replace the significant impact of club legend Aguero? Stats Perform has taken a look at the numbers to determine the potential impact of the Norway sensation.

More than just "Agueroooo"

When you reel off a list of the greatest players to don a City shirt, Aguero's name is likely to feature prominently.

The Argentine striker played a huge role in taking the club from top-four contenders to the most dominant team in England, winning five Premier League titles, six EFL Cups and an FA Cup.

Aguero scored 260 goals in 390 games for City, averaging a goal every 107 minutes over his 10 years at the club.

He, of course, will also forever be synonymous with the famous stoppage time goal against QPR in 2012 that sealed City's first Premier League title, snatching it from the hands of Manchester United with almost the last kick of the season.

Despite his undoubted quality, there were some questions about how he would fare under Guardiola when the Catalan coach arrived in 2016.

While Guardiola had played with orthodox strikers before, arguably his crowning achievement was cultivating a Barcelona team that many still believe to this day is the greatest club side the game has ever seen – and that broadly played without a number nine, with Lionel Messi often used in a false nine role.

He did utilise Robert Lewandowski to good effect while at Bayern Munich, though, and while he did not exactly make Aguero his first name on the teamsheet every week, the overall development in quality of the team led to the striker actually improving his own numbers.

Under Guardiola, Aguero played 182 games, scoring 124 goals at a rate of 102 minutes per goal.

Unfortunately, injuries hindered Aguero in his final two seasons before he bade a tearful goodbye at the end of last season to join Barcelona. He was then forced to retire from the game altogether in December on health grounds, but the forward's significant impact at City will never be in question.

 

Step forward the second-generation sensation

It almost sounds like something out of the Football Manager computer game series. The son of former Leeds United and City player Alf-Inge Haaland goes on to become one of the best strikers in world football? Yeah, sure.

Well, it's true. Haaland burst onto the scene as he scored goals at rates rarely seen before at Salzburg, before making the move to Dortmund in the January transfer window of 2020, and he has not looked back since.

Haaland has bagged 85 goals in 88 games for BVB in all competitions, which works out at a goal every 84 minutes. Not bad for someone who only turns 22 in July.

But how does he compare to Aguero? It is difficult to make comparisons given the difference in style, experience and leagues, but to try to get a good idea, let's look at Haaland's two and a half years in the Bundesliga compared to Aguero's first three Premier League campaigns under Guardiola.

In Haaland's 66 league games for Dortmund – in which he has scored 61 goals, averaging 87 minutes per goal – he has attempted 3.5 shots per 90, with a shot conversion rate of 29.9 per cent, and he has scored 62.0 per cent of his 'big chances' (chances from which Opta would expect a player to score).

He has also averaged 3.3 shots from inside the penalty area per 90, notable with City spending so much time camped around opposition boxes.

Between 2016 and 2019, Aguero played 89 Premier League matches for City, scoring 62 goals at an average of one every 111 minutes.

The Argentinian averaged 4.6 shots per 90, with a shot conversion rate of 17.7 per cent, scoring from 53.9 per cent of his big chances, with an average of 3.6 shots from inside the penalty area.

It therefore appears that Haaland is actually the deadlier finisher, which is quite an achievement next to someone as good as Aguero, and one would assume Haaland's shot numbers will increase playing in a more dominant team like City, who always create plenty of chances.

 

It might be argued that goals in the Bundesliga do not always translate into goals in the Premier League. For example, Timo Werner scored 28 goals in 34 games in his last league campaign at RB Leipzig before joining Chelsea, where he has scored just 10 in 56 Premier League appearances.

However, even allowing for a period of adaption, it would take a brave person to bet against Haaland being a success in England based on his career to date.

Already outstanding in a single season without Aguero, City have seemingly identified the man to fill those big boots.

Erling Haaland will become a Manchester City player at the end of the season after the Premier League club confirmed an agreement in principle to sign the Borussia Dortmund star.

The prolific Norway striker has been one of the most sought-after players in the world and will now follow in the footsteps of his father Alf-Inge Haaland, who played for City between 2000 and 2003.

City, who had previously been reported as ready to meet the release clause of €75million (£64.2m) in the 21-year-old's contract, announced a deal subject to personal terms on Tuesday.

A statement on the club's website read: "Manchester City can confirm we have reached an agreement in principle with Borussia Dortmund for the transfer of striker Erling Haaland to the Club on 1st July 2022.

"The transfer remains subject to the Club finalising terms with the player."

 

Haaland has struggled with injuries this season, but has still managed 28 goals in 29 games in all competitions for Dortmund.

Only Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski has a better ratio (1.13) of goals per 90 minutes in Europe's top five leagues in all competitions than Haaland's 1.1.

Since arriving in Germany from Salzburg at the start of 2020, only Lewandowski (122) and Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe (89) have scored more than Haaland's 85 goals, with City's new recruit behind just Lewandowski (1.18) in terms of goals per game (1.07) in that time.

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