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Guardiola hits back at Keane after ‘League Two player’ jibe at Haaland

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Pep Guardiola insists Erling Haaland is the world’s best striker after the Manchester City star was likened to a League Two player by Roy Keane.

Keane made the shock observation during his punditry for Sky Sports after Haaland’s quiet performance during City’s goalless draw at home to Arsenal last weekend.

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Keane is known for his big claims, but even this one about Haaland shocked fans

The Manchester United legend concurred Haaland, top of the scoring charts after winning last season’s Golden Boot, is in a class of his own in front of goal but added his all-round game is ‘almost like a League Two player’.

Guardiola was unimpressed by the remarks, arguing Haaland was instrumental in City’s treble success last season before insisting any blame for not scoring against Arsenal should be shared by the team.

“I don’t agree with him, absolutely not,” Guardiola said. “He’s the best striker in the world and he helped us to win what we won last season. Erling is exceptional.

“The reason we don’t create chances is not because of Erling. The standards that Erling has are unbelievable and everyone expects other things.

“There are games where he could be better but I knew during the game against Arsenal that the reason why we were not creating chances was not because of Erling.

“We needed more presence in the box. If we had that Erling would have more space. It happens sometimes. If you want to score goals, bring a lot of players to the opponent keeper, it is as simple as that.”

Guardiola, whose side welcome top-four hopefuls Aston Villa on Wednesday evening, live on talkSPORT 2, admitted he is routinely bemused by former players offering scathing views about contemporary footballers.

However, the Spaniard accepts that criticism comes with the territory of being a high-profile professional footballer.

Guardiola has leapt to the defence of Haaland after Keane's comments

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Guardiola has leapt to the defence of Haaland after Keane’s commentsCredit: Getty

“If you don’t want to accept that as a football player, you have to dedicate yourself to another job,” Guardiola said. “When you are a public figure, you have to accept it.

“That’s why when you are in contract talks, you have to ask for a lot of money to accept those moments.

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“I’m surprised it comes from former players. With journalists I can understand because they have never been on the pitch but the former players is always a surprise (when they are critical).”

When asked if he could see himself becoming a pundit in the future, Guardiola added: “I don’t know what is going to happen but I am not the guy who is going to criticise my colleagues when I retire.”

Guardiola sarcastically quipped his ‘ego’ was the driving factor behind a heated on-pitch exchange with Jack Grealish following the full-time whistle after the Arsenal match.

Grealish has had a reduced role this season, partly through injuries, but Guardiola believes the England midfielder could have an impact as the season reaches the business end.

“I have the feeling that he’s back – in mood and training and desire,” Guardiola added. “Now I’m pleased.

“I’ve only asked the players to be ready and be themselves, it doesn’t matter if they perform at the highest level or less. We need everyone with the title schedule.”



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