In a strange way, Marco Rose was right. The coach of RB Leipzig had come up against the second leg of his team's knockout round against Manchester City in the Champions League that there is a debate in England about Erling Haaland.
Since his move from Borussia Dortmund to City before this season, he has scored as he wants, but has also changed the style of Pep Guardiola's team: The tactics are now tailored to him and thus more direct, even less elaborate than before, when City often took their opponents like a python in the stranglehold of never-ending possession and fluid positional play.
Asked about this, Rose quoted Haaland's fabulous haul in the Premier League – 28 goals in 26 appearances – and asked smugly where City would be in the table without these goals. "If you don't want him," he whispered, "send him to me." Last season, Rose had worked with Haaland in Dortmund, on Tuesday evening they faced each other in the sleet of Manchester in opposing camps.
What is Haaland's Superpower?
And Haaland confirmed Rose's comments on the debate about his person with a performance that will probably not be surpassed so soon: In City's 7-0 victory, he scored a whopping five goals before his substitution after just over an hour. On average, Haaland scored every twelve minutes, taking less time with his two goals between the 22nd and 24th minute of the game.
And at the highest level that European club football has to offer – or should have to offer, because Leipzig did not live up to this claim at all on Tuesday. In six Champions League games, Haaland has now scored ten goals – more than any other player in the competition – and 33 in 25 games so far in his career.
For comparison: Cristiano Ronaldo is the top scorer of the Champions League with 140 goals in 183 appearances. Haaland's form is likely to make the aging world star quite nervous. Because if Haaland continued to score with his current striking rate, he would score more than 240 goals in Ronaldo's number of games. He is just 22 years old.
With another record, he drew level on Tuesday evening: Five goals in a Champions League game had managed only two others before him: Lionel Messi for FC Barcelona against Bayer Leverkusen (2012) and Luiz Adriano for Shakhtar Donetsk against BATE Borisov (2014). When Guardiola replaced Haaland on Tuesday evening, the joke made the rounds that the Spaniard only wanted to protect Messi's record – in Barcelona, both had worked together successfully.
Asked by BT Sport after the game which of his goals he liked the most, Haaland said in his usual mischievous way that he could not really remember every single one. He simply shot without thinking much about it. What is its superpower? "I think after five goals I have to say: scoring goals?"
It's about being quick in your head, making the right decisions, making the right routes and putting the ball where the goalkeeper can't reach it. It is the simple recipe for success of a striker who now stands at 39 goals in 36 games in all competitions this season.
But why is this generational talent not beyond reproach? The focus on Haaland as a full-blooded centre forward is a departure from the football trimmed for playful dominance with the so-called "false nine", with which Guardiola has led Manchester City to the championship four times in the past five years.
Currently, City is "only" in second place behind FC Arsenal in the Premier League table. After 27 games, City have 61 points with Haaland, last season it was without him at this time already 66. City have scored three goals more this season than last season, but have conceded eight more goals. The danger: If Haaland has a bad day, City are more likely to drop points than in the old system, which shared the burden on several shoulders.
In his current form, however, Haaland rarely has a bad day. With him, City now hopes to finally win the Champions League after all the successes of recent years in England. That's how Guardiola is measured, more than by national championships and cup victories, as he admitted before the game against Leipzig.
But so far he has not succeeded in Manchester, which he did with Barcelona in 2009 and 2011. Even Marco Rose wished his counterpart before the game that it would work out soon – "just maybe not this year". Leipzig may not have been an opponent for City, but after this bombastic Haaland show, he might not be right, at least on this point.