Pep Guardiola hits back at pundit criticism of ‘exceptional’ Erling Haaland after Jamie Carragher insisted the Man City star is yet to become a ‘world class’ player

Pep Guardiola has come to the defence of Erling Haaland after Jamie Carragher claimed the Manchester City forward needs to change if he wants to win the Ballon d’Or.

Haaland boasts a superb return of 82 goals in 90 appearances for City since the start of last season.

The Norwegian’s all-around game has faced criticism in recent weeks, notably after the Premier League top scorer struggled to make an impact in their goalless draw with Arsenal last month.

His performance led to former Man United captain Roy Keane branding Haaland’s general play as being ‘like a League Two’ player.

Carragher said after another quiet showing from Haaland in their 3-3 draw with Real Madrid that he is a ‘world class finisher’, but his overall game must improve.

Erling Haaland faced criticism after another quiet showing against Real Madrid on Tuesday

Carragher claimed Haaland needs to add more to his game if he is to win the Ballon d'Or

Carragher claimed Haaland needs to add more to his game if he is to win the Ballon d’Or 

The former Liverpool defender wrote in The Telegraph: ‘Erling Haaland is the ultimate luxury footballer. He is undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest goal-scorers, but is yet to become a world-class player.’
‘If his sole interest is breaking goalscoring records, he has no need to change anything. If he has serious ambitions to win the Ballon d’Or and play for Real Madrid, he may have a problem. 

‘He must add more to his game to make that leap and to seriously challenge his rival to the title of best player of his generation, Kylian Mbappe.’

Guardiola came to Haaland’s defence by praising the forward ‘exceptional’ all-around contribution to Man City’s attack, claiming the Norwegian has helped create space for others in the team to thrive.

‘He helps us to make more spaces in the areas and his contribution has been exceptional since the first day he arrived,’ Guardiola said.

‘They [pundits] do whatever they want. That is not a problem. They have an opinion, I have an opinion and it doesn’t matter if it is right or wrong.

‘If I give an opinion it looks like I want to criticise the pundits but I don’t. We can agree or disagree.

Pep Guardiola has come to the defence of Haaland and has hailed the forward's contribution

Pep Guardiola has come to the defence of Haaland and has hailed the forward’s contribution

‘We are quite similar to last season – we scored four goals, four goals and three goals in the last three games [against Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Real Madrid] – 11 goals in three games and Erling helped us score some of them by creating spaces for the others to score the goals.

‘I saw in his face and in what he said after the game in the locker room [after Madrid] he was extremely happy.

‘The target is not the Ballon d’Or, the target is to win trophies and he did. Would we have won five trophies last year without him? Not a chance.’

Haaland is likely to be back in action when Man City face Luton in the Premier League on Saturday as the reigning champions aim to maintain their title push. 

Pep GuardiolaJamie Carragher

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