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Pep Guardiola claims Erling Haaland deserves to win the Ballon d’Or – but so does Lionel Messi.
Haaland has been nominated for the coveted prize after scoring 52 goals in Manchester City’s treble-winning campaign.
Yet City boss Guardiola has always maintained his former Barcelona talisman, who inspired Argentina to World Cup success in 2022, is the best player he has ever coached.
Guardiola said: “I always said that the Ballon d’Or had to be of two sections – one for Messi and one for the others.
“Haaland should win. We won the treble because he scored 52 goals but, of course, Messi – his worst season is the best of most players. Both deserve it.
“Egotistically, I would say I want Erling because he helped us to achieve what we achieved, I would love it, but I won’t tell you it’s unfair if Leo wins.
“It’s nice that many players for Man City will be there for the first time in many years and challenging for these trophies. That makes us so proud for our organisation.”
Champions City are hoping to get back to winning ways in the Premier League this weekend after losing their two matches prior to the international break to Wolves and Arsenal.
They face a tough challenge, however, with Brighton the visitors to the Etihad Stadium, and Guardiola has been highly impressed by their performances under manager Roberto De Zerbi.
Guardiola said: “He’s converting Brighton into a top club. (Alexis) Mac Allister and (Levi) Colwill have gone but they continue to play at a good level.
“Last season was really good too. They qualified for Europe and but for some decisions against them in the last games they could fight to be champions.
“It is one of the toughest tests we have this season and we are going to try and go for it.”
City midfielder Kalvin Phillips, who has struggled for game time under Guardiola, this week admitted he needs to play more at club level to retain his place in the England squad ahead of Euro 2024.
That has increased speculation he could leave in January and Guardiola, speaking at a press conference on Friday, did not rule out that possibility.
He said: “The transfer window is over, now we are here together. When we need a game with transitions or games with something with chaos Kalvin is perfect.
“When there is something you need to do, there are still one or two players who can do it better. That’s the simple reason.
“He will be here until winter. After, I don’t know what will happen because nobody knows once the window is open.”
Guardiola admitted it was “so important” Rodri returned this weekend after the influential Spain midfielder was sorely missed during his recent suspension.
Rodri incurred a three-match ban after being sent off following a confrontation with Nottingham Forest’s Morgan Gibbs-White last month.
Guardiola said: “Rodri has to learn. We have to control our emotions and stand up and go. I’m pretty sure he will learn.”
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