66084083-11588441-image-a-24_1672523125485.jpg

As we mourn Pele and marvel over what Messi did in Qatar, Erling Haaland might be on the verge

The quality of greatness in sport throws out a brilliant and alluring light that makes everyone in its orbit feel enriched by its presence. 

I sat for a while with Michael Jordan 25 years or so ago in the Chicago Bulls’ locker room before a regular season game against the Bucks in Milwaukee and still remember thinking that, even on a treatment couch, the man seemed like a force of nature.

It was quite something, too, to be in the Lusail Stadium on the northern outskirts of Doha a fortnight ago to witness the genius of Lionel Messi leading Argentina to victory over France in the World Cup final. 

Erling Haaland has continued his phenomenal scoring form since the Premier League’s restart

The power of Messi’s talent seemed to hang over the arena that night so that you felt that you were watching an unstoppable force.

We want to acclaim greatness so that we become, however tenuously, associated with it. So that we can bask in its glow. Here is my picture with Pele

Here is my Michael Jordan story. This was the time I met Tiger Woods. Have I told you I bumped into Ayrton Senna once in the Duty Free shop at Heathrow? We are always on the look-out for greatness. We crave new outbreaks of it.

There are new candidates as we mourn the death of Brazilian legend Pele, who died aged 82

There are new candidates as we mourn the death of Brazilian legend Pele, who died aged 82

And even as we mourn Pele and marvel over what Messi did in Qatar over the course of four weeks that straddled November and December, there are new candidates to anoint.

He was out of focus for a while because he did not have a part to play in the World Cup but now that the Premier League has restarted, Erling Haaland is scoring goals again and it feels as if he might be on the verge of achieving something special.

Haaland is not Pele and he is not Messi but he has a talent for scoring goals that is marking him out as a phenomenon. 

Lionel Messi (pictured) became a hero as he recently won the 2022 World Cup in Qatar

Lionel Messi (pictured) became a hero as he recently won the 2022 World Cup in Qatar

Since he arrived at Manchester City from Borussia Dortmund in the summer, he has taken the Premier League by storm. 

If the vote for player of the season was made at the turn of the year, Miguel Almiron would be a candidate and so would Bukayo Saka, but Haaland would be a runaway winner.

The numbers he is putting up are frightening. The brace he scored against Leeds United last week in City’s first league game back since the World Cup took him to 20 league goals for the season in only his 14th game for Pep Guardiola’s side. 

That smashed the previous Premier League record, which was set by Kevin Phillips. It took Phillips 21 games to reach 20 goals. The quickest that City’s former goalscoring hero, Sergio Aguero, ever hit the mark was 30 games. 

The 22-year-old Man City star  has 21 Premier League goals to his name so far this season

The 22-year-old Man City star  has 21 Premier League goals to his name so far this season

It is inconvenient, as always, to remember that football did not begin in 1992 and that Premier League records are not the sole arbiter of greatness in the English game. 

It took Everton’s Dixie Dean 11 games to reach 20 league goals in his record-breaking 1927-28 top-flight season, when he scored 60 times. Dean apart, though, Haaland is setting a pace never seen before even in the land time forgot, before the Premier League.

If he stays fit, it is hard not to see him breaking the Premier League record of 34 goals in a season, shared by Alan Shearer and Andrew Cole. 

Both those men were among the best strikers of their generation, fearsome and feared goal-scorers but Haaland, who bagged another against Everton yesterday, is on course to obliterate their total. 

That is why it is legitimate to feel you are watching something special when you see him play.

Beating the Premier League record would be a significant achievement but there are other targets in reach, too, and if he reels them in, then we will be entitled to talk about witnessing greatness in action. 

Ted Drake scored 42 goals for Arsenal in 1934-35, John Charles got 38 for Leeds in 1956-57 and the man many consider the greatest goalscorer of them all, Jimmy Greaves, hit 41 for Chelsea in 1960-61.

Andrew Cole scored 34 goals for Newcastle in the 93/94 Premier League season

Alan Shearer hit his best Premier League tally at Blackburn

Andrew Cole(left) and Alan Shearer(right) are the joint-holders of the highest scoring campaign in Premier League history with 34

But even they pale in comparison to Everton legend's Dixie Dean's (pictured) 60-goal tally

But even they pale in comparison to Everton legend’s Dixie Dean’s (pictured) 60-goal tally

Greaves also got 37 for Spurs in 1962-63 and 35 for them the season after. There is work for Haaland to do but the chase is on and the chase is compelling. 

Dean’s record is surely out of reach but that does not mean there are not echoes of baseball’s thrilling home run chase of 1998 when both Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa hunted down the single-season record set by Roger Maris 37 years earlier. If Haaland could eclipse Greaves’s mark, it would be one hell of an achievement.

Perhaps it is enough to say that if Haaland stays fit and keeps scoring at his current rate, City will almost certainly retain their title and see off the challenge of Arsenal and all others.

But the chase for records and the pursuit of legends adds an extra dimension to his season and to ours. Old heroes move on and new ones emerge. The scent of greatness is in the air again.


Source link

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *