Erling Haaland could become the first player in world football to make a transfer worth £1billion, according to his agent Rafaela Pimenta.

Haaland left Borussia Dortmund to join Manchester City after they activated a £51.2million (€60m) release clause in his BVB contract in May, and the striker has already begun to pay that fee back by making an incredible start to life in England.

The Norwegian became the first player to score as many as nine goals in his first five Premier League appearances in August and has already netted three hat-tricks in the competition.

Haaland has hit the net 15 times in 10 league games for City, and Pimenta, who manages the agency built by the late Mino Raiola, believes he could make history with his next move.

Asked to put a price on Haaland by Sky Sport Italia, Pimenta said: "One billion, that's what I think. 

"If you put together his football value, his image value, his sponsorship value, it is one billion, for sure.

"It's also normal to compare Erling with [Kylian] Mbappe, so you have a little bit of an idea of the market. I think Erling will be the first player to achieve a transfer around one billion." 

Haaland's incredible form has coincided with speculation linking him to Real Madrid, but Pimenta would be open to discussing a new contract with City instead of instigating a move away.

Asked whether Haaland could already be in line for a new deal, she said: "I hope so! If they want to discuss it today, I would be happy. Why not?"

However, Pimenta kept her cards close to her chest when questioned on reports claiming Haaland's current contract has a release clause allowing him to join Madrid on favourable terms. 

"The good and bad of being a lawyer is that you know what you cannot say," she added. "You don't need someone poking you, saying; 'Don't say this, don't say that'. I cannot talk about it."

Ilkay Gundogan says his "special" Manchester City team-mate Erling Haaland can be a future contender to win the Ballon d'Or.

Since joining City from Borussia Dortmund in June, Haaland has scored 20 goals in 13 appearances and become the first player in Premier League history to score hat-tricks in three consecutive home games, the last of which came against rivals Manchester United in a 6-3 thrashing.

The 22-year-old was 10th in the 2022 Ballon d'Or rankings as Real Madrid captain Karim Benzema was named the best player in the world for the first time on Monday.

Gundogan believes Norway international Haaland has all the attributes to land the prestigious award.

"There is quality, everyone can see it," Gundogan told City's official website. "There is a lot of quality that he already brings, into our team, into his game.

"But also, the way he is dealing with things that are important to him and the mentality, the determination he has on a match day and also in the training sessions in the locker room. I think that is something special.

"On top of that he is humble. He knows he has to work hard to get where he is right now and to even get to better places.

"I'm sure that all this together will just improve him more and more, not just this season but in the next few years.

"It will make him an incredible player. He is already one, but he will just get better and I think this will increase his chances to win the Ballon d'Or."

Kevin De Bruyne believes Erling Haaland made a "very good" decision when he opted to join Manchester City, saying he does not understand anyone who doubted the Norwegian.  

Although Haaland endured a quiet outing as City fell to a 1-0 loss at Liverpool on Sunday – their first defeat of the Premier League season – he has made a brilliant start to life in England.

Haaland has scored 15 goals in 10 Premier League games since joining City, and became the first player in the competition's history to hit hat-tricks in three successive home games earlier this month.

De Bruyne has already struck up a strong understanding with Haaland, and believes City's depth of attacking quality has made the striker's adaptation easier. 

"I don't understand why people would say it would be difficult to score goals here," De Bruyne told City's website.

"I think we have an amazing team, we create a lot of opportunities for our strikers so if he's there, he will score goals.

"I think he made a very good decision to come."

Haaland scored nine goals in his first five Premier League games – the best return in the competition's history, and De Bruyne thinks it was crucial for the 22-year-old to hit the ground running.

"He did it before. He's a very good striker," De Bruyne added. "I am very happy for him that he started the way that he started with us, because obviously there was a lot of pressure coming here.

"But he's fine, he's very relaxed and he's started well. He scores a lot of goals, so he's helping us to win games."

Robert Lewandowski earned the Gerd Muller Trophy by scoring 57 goals for club and country last season and is not about to shirk the challenge of reeling in Erling Haaland in the 2022-23 campaign.

Lewandowski was presented with France Football's award for world football's leading marksman for the second year in a row on Monday, before Karim Benzema landed the Ballon d'Or for the first time.

The honour – previously the Striker of the Year – has been renamed after Muller, the legendary Bayern Munich forward whose 40-goal single-season Bundesliga record Lewandowski broke en route to claiming the trophy.

But if the Barcelona man is going to retain the prize once again in 2023, he is going to have to overcome Manchester City's scoring sensation Haaland.

The City number nine has 20 goals for the club already, also netting once for Norway this season.

Meanwhile, Lewandowski, who was the fourth-best player in the Ballon d'Or rankings, has 14 for Barca and none for Poland to trail by seven.

The 34-year-old was asked about Haaland as he received the Muller Trophy at the Ballon d'Or ceremony, with Didier Drogba telling him of "this kid" at City who is "on fire".

Lewandowski said: "The season is very long, and I know for me it's also a new chapter with Barcelona. Since the first days, I'm feeling very well in this club.

"From the first minutes, I see that with my team-mates we have big potential and I have the opportunity to score a lot of goals. I am sure that all together we are working on this.

"This is football, and we have to be always ready. I know the new generation is also coming, but still I am here."

Reflecting on his achievement, Lewandowski said: "I am very happy and glad and proud not only to win but because also of the name of this trophy. Gerd was a huge inspiration.

"Before the season, I wanted to be closer to him, and I always wanted to break some of his records. It was always a huge challenge.

"It was very emotional to score 41 goals in Bundesliga because I did not think it was possible to break this record. Everything I did was for him."

While Haaland's bid will wait another year, as he scored 42 times for Borussia Dortmund and Norway combined, City did not go away empty-handed.

The Premier League champions beat Champions League finalists Liverpool and Real Madrid to the Club of the Year prize.

Cristiano Ronaldo finished in 20th place in the Ballon d'Or voting as he headlined an array of stars to fall short of 2022 winner Karim Benzema.

Ronaldo, Benzema's former Real Madrid team-mate, was nominated following a strong season with Manchester United, but he could not come close to adding a sixth Ballon d'Or.

The United forward instead fell to his lowest finish since he last came 20th in 2005, then tied with Liverpool's Champions League winner Jamie Carragher.

Great rival Lionel Messi did not even earn a nomination after his first year at Paris Saint-Germain.

Some of the biggest names of the future came rather closer to troubling Karim Benzema, with Kylian Mbappe sixth and Erling Haaland 10th.

But neither made the final four, where Robert Lewandowski's world-leading 57-goal season for club and country was only enough for fourth place.

Ahead of him, Kevin De Bruyne was in third, with Sadio Mane second, perhaps showing what might have been for the ex-Liverpool forward had the Reds, not Madrid, won the Champions League final.

With Ronaldo 20th and Messi absent, the highest-ranking former Ballon d'Or winner was 2018's Luka Modric, one of Benzema's existing Madrid colleagues.

Modric came ninth, the lowest of four Madrid players in the top 10, as Champions League final winner Vinicius Junior was eighth and Yashin Trophy recipient Thibaut Courtois seventh.

2022 Ballon d'Or:

1. Karim Benzema
2. Sadio Mane
3. Kevin De Bruyne
4. Robert Lewandowski
5. Mohamed Salah
6. Kylian Mbappe
7. Thibaut Courtois
8. Vinicius Junior
9. Luka Modric
10. Erling Haaland
11. Son Heung-min
12. Riyad Mahrez
13. Sebastien Haller
14. Fabinho
14. Rafael Leao
16. Virgil van Dijk
17. Casemiro
17. Dusan Vlahovic
17. Luis Diaz
20. Cristiano Ronaldo
21. Harry Kane
22. Trent Alexander-Arnold
22. Phil Foden
22. Bernardo Silva
25. Joshua Kimmich
25. Mike Maignan
25. Antonio Rudiger
25. Joao Cancelo
25. Christopher Nkunku
25. Darwin Nunez

Erling Haaland has quickly become the darling of the Premier League, with his record-breaking start to the season swiftly elevating him to a status of being probably the most-feared player in the division.

At the same time, Mohamed Salah has largely endured an underwhelming start to the campaign. But after a Champions League treble in midweek, the forward made the difference as Liverpool beat reigning champions Manchester City 1-0 at Anfield on Sunday.

Salah's winning goal was just the tip of the iceberg. His performance showed he's truly back, and Liverpool's fighting spirit proved they are still – despite what the table says – one of England's two best teams.

The wider context of the game was nothing like what we've come to expect of this fixture, which in recent years has become the Premier League's biggest event and even decided the eventual destination of the title.

Jurgen Klopp conceded on Friday that while this may well be a title-deciding match again in some respects, it wasn't going to be Liverpool's trophy hopes on the line – realistically, such a challenge is surely already beyond them even after winning.

With Liverpool going into the game 12th in the table, it was their pride at stake. Much has changed since the Reds had too much for City in the Community Shield a week before the start of the season; the perception of Haaland, first and foremost.

Back then, most would've been predicting another straight shoot-out between City and Liverpool for the title, though the relative lack of jeopardy at Anfield on Sunday didn't take anything away from a riveting, fiery contest.

Klopp highlighted the potential importance of a packed Anfield, and the stadium was certainly rocking. Even minor duel successes for the hosts were cheered like goals early on; it was fierce, with meaty tackles flying in all over the place, while on the touchline the two managers snarled and barked at poor decisions and questionable refereeing calls like rabid rottweilers – Klopp's late red card wasn't particularly surprising.

Of course, for City all eyes were on Haaland. It's fair to say he's more than proven his point since a pretty dreadful – by his standards – outing against Liverpool in the Community Shield. Though, for someone as ultra-competitive as the Norwegian, there was still probably a part of him desperate to be decisive because of that day.

City certainly seemed eager to give him that opportunity, and that was arguably to their detriment in the first half. The visitors almost seemed a little too intent on finding the big blonde behemoth, as if a victory would only count if Haaland played a crucial part.

One such incident saw an opening carved open for Phil Foden, but instead of a first-time shot after being fed by Haaland, he checked back, ran into danger and then the attack petered out.

Not that Haaland didn't have his chances. One lob attempt after being released behind Virgil van Dijk troubled Alisson, then he should have buried a header from Kevin De Bruyne's cross but put it straight at the goalkeeper.

On the other side of things, Salah looked eager to remind people he was the Premier League's top attacker. The Egyptian took the game to City and was electric in the first half. His movement, strength and dribbling all troubled the visitors' defence – the problem was opportunities weren't necessarily flowing.

That changed at the start of the second half. Salah spun Ruben Dias and latched on to a Thiago Alcantara pass into the City half, playing him through on goal. He seemed destined to spark bedlam in the Kop behind the goal he was charging towards, but a remarkable fingertip save from Ederson denied him.

Alisson soon produced a similarly vital stop to thwart Haaland at the other end, having only recently seen a Foden goal disallowed for a foul by the Norway striker in the build-up.

At this point, City were dominating more than ever, but Salah had looked a threat throughout on the break. Another opportunity was certain to arrive, and it was one such moment that brought Liverpool the breakthrough.

Alisson's long punt went straight to Salah, who used his body brilliantly to spin away from Joao Cancelo before racing towards goal. Ederson could not repeat his earlier heroics – Salah coolly converted.

City piled the pressure on in response. Both teams scrapped, Bernardo Silva and Salah scrapped with each other. Klopp was sent off. Diogo Jota ran himself into the ground and on to a stretcher. The imperious Van Dijk denied Haaland a certain goal.

Liverpool held on amid a gripping and tense finale, seeing out a victory that could transform their season. But beyond that, this fixture was a showcase of such quality.

Salah's moment of brilliance was befitting as the decisive action, though there were exceptional performances on both sides. Joe Gomez, Van Dijk, James Milner, Alisson, Ederson, Haaland, De Bruyne – the list goes on. All showed their varied qualities as we were once again reminded of why this fixture has become such an anticipated duel in recent years.

Forget the table. Liverpool are one of England's two best teams, and Salah remains one of the Premier League's two best forwards.

Liverpool handed Manchester City their first Premier League defeat of the season thanks to a Mohamed Salah strike in an enthralling encounter at Anfield.

The Egyptian raced onto a long pass from Alisson with 14 minutes remaining before slotting past Ederson to give the Reds just their third league win of the season.

City were frustrated to see Phil Foden’s second half goal ruled out following a VAR check for a foul by Erling Haaland in the build-up.

The result leaves Pep Guardiola’s men four points behind league leaders Arsenal, while Liverpool move up to eighth after a much-improved showing.

A high-octane start to the game did not lead to many early chances, with Ilkay Gundogan forcing the first save from either goalkeeper in the 15th minute, but his hopeful strike from 25 yards was easy for Alisson to deal with.

Liverpool's first opportunity came through Diogo Jota, who could only place his header from a cross by Harvey Elliott straight at Ederson, before Andrew Robertson received the ball on the left of the penalty area after the City stopper had palmed away a James Milner cross, but the Scot fired his effort over the crossbar.

Bernardo Silva sliced a shot into the Kop from the edge of the box on the half-hour mark, while Haaland tested Alisson on two occasions, also seeing a header loop over the bar.

The hosts should have been ahead shortly after the restart when Salah was played through on goal by Elliott, but Ederson got the slightest touch to it to tip the Egyptian's finish just wide of the right-hand post.

City thought they were ahead moments later when Haaland burst through, forcing a save from Alisson before Foden put the ball in the net on the rebound, but referee Anthony Taylor ruled it out after the VAR asked him to check the monitor, with Haaland having fouled Fabinho in the build-up.

It was Liverpool who took the lead on 76 minutes when Alisson caught a Kevin De Bruyne free-kick before launching it downfield to Salah, who outfoxed Joao Cancelo before finishing calmly past Ederson.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp was sent to the stands by Taylor late on after reacting furiously to the referee's refusal to award his team a free-kick, but it did not matter as Liverpool held on for a win that could turn around their slow start to the campaign.

Jurgen Klopp acknowledges Liverpool cannot compete with Premier League rivals Manchester City and Newcastle United financially, declaring "some clubs have a ceiling".

Liverpool go into Sunday's encounter with City trailing the champions by 13 points, having made their worst start to a league campaign since 2012 – when they took nine points from their first eight games.

Pep Guardiola's side beat Liverpool to the Premier League title by just one point last season, and have gone from strength to strength since the arrival of Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund.

Meanwhile, with Newcastle enjoying a strong start to their first full season under their hugely wealthy Saudi owners, boss Eddie Howe declared there was "no ceiling" for the Magpies on Friday.

Asked how Liverpool could keep pace with City, Klopp said they were one of three clubs in world football operating without any economic restraints. 

"You will not like the answer, and you all have the answer already," Klopp said. "Nobody can compete with City. You have the best team in the world, and you put in the best striker on the market.

"No matter what it costs, they just do it. I know City will not like it, nobody will like it. Liverpool can not act like them. It's not possible. 

"It's just clear. There are three clubs in world football that can do what they want, financially. It's legal and everything, fine. But it's a fact.

"It's not a problem at all for me, it is what it is. But don't ask me that question. You all should know it, it's not possible to deal with that, and it will be like this.

"I hear now at Newcastle they said, 'there's no ceiling for this club'. He's absolutely right, there's no ceiling for Newcastle. Congratulations, some other clubs have ceilings."

Haaland has played a massive role in City's unbeaten start to the season since his big-money move, scoring 20 goals in 13 appearances for the club.

Pre-season saw comparisons drawn between Haaland and Liverpool's new frontman Darwin Nunez, who has only scored two Premier League goals, but Klopp wants the Uruguayan to focus on his own game.

"I'll say it like this: I think Darwin Nunez would have scored a couple more goals if he could play in the centre for Man City this season," Klopp said.

"He would be a good striker for them too, finishing the situations off. We have to improve our game to bring more situations.

"I don't know. I hope he's not in a process where he compares himself with Erling Haaland, but I think he's really making steps here. You could really see in his face and everything, his goal [in a 7-1 thrashing of Rangers on Wednesday] was really important to him.

"You need these moments, I hope he's not doing that or thinking about that. I don't see that. We are in our situation and want to solve our situation, that's all we are concerned about."

The outoome of Liverpool's clash with Manchester City is likely to hinge on how Virgil van Dijk copes with "absolute phenomenon" Erling Haaland, according to Gary Neville.

City trail Premier League leaders Arsenal by a point ahead of their trip to Anfield on Sunday, while Liverpool are 13 points further back, seemingly out of title contention already.

Pep Guardiola's men are the only unbeaten side in the Premier League, thanks in no small part to the extraordinary exploits of Haaland.

Having only played nine games in the top flight, Haaland has already broken the records for most goals (15) and goal involvements (18) in a player's first 10 appearances in the competition. 

A trip to Merseyside will see Norway striker face arguably his toughest opponent yet in Van Dijk, and Neville is excited by the prospect of their duel.

"I still think, no matter what form Liverpool are in and where they are, Sunday will still feel like the toughest game they [City] are going to face," Neville told Sky Sports.

"Look, at the end of the day you know what I feel about those two clubs, but on Sunday you can't help but think of Haaland against Van Dijk.

"You just can't stop thinking about how that's going to play out. The best centre-back in the world for the last three or four years, who has struggled a little bit more this season. 

"But he's against this absolute phenomenon. That Liverpool back line, which pushes up with space in behind… I'm fascinated by that, I can't wait for it, to be honest."

Liverpool are winless in their last five Premier League meetings with the champions (D3 L2) – they have never previously gone six without a victory against City in the league.

Jamie Carragher has told Liverpool to focus on stopping Kevin De Bruyne in Sunday's clash against Manchester City, which he believes would cut the supply to Erling Haaland.

Jurgen Klopp's side welcome City to Anfield after a disappointing start to their Premier League campaign, sitting 13 points behind their opponents following a defeat to Arsenal last week.

Stopping City from extending that gap will be tough, particularly with Haaland in such incredible goalscoring form. The former Borussia Dortmund has already scored 15 league goals, only eight fewer than the 23 managed by Golden Boot winners Son Heung-min and Mohamed Salah last season.

While that may encourage Liverpool to pay special attention to the 22-year-old, former Reds defender Carragher believes the key factor will be limiting De Bruyne's influence on the game.

"I'd almost be more focused on De Bruyne rather than Haaland in this game," he told Sky Sports' Essential Football podcast.

"If you stop De Bruyne, you take 50 per cent away from Haaland as well as the connection the two have got is there already. And for me, De Bruyne is the best midfielder in the world.

Jurgen Klopp became aware of Erling Haaland's "insane" potential when he faced Liverpool with Salzburg, and the Reds boss believes the striker has found "a perfect fit" at Manchester City.

Liverpool were drawn into the same Champions League group as Haaland's Salzburg in the 2019-20 season.

Then 19, having hit a hat-trick against Genk on his Champions League debut, Haaland netted in a 4-3 defeat at Anfield.

The Norway international has scarcely stopped scoring since, earning moves to Klopp's former club Borussia Dortmund and then City, where he has an astonishing 20 goals in 13 games in all competitions.

Ahead of facing Haaland again on Sunday in the Premier League, Klopp was asked for his take on the dominant forward.

"Even when he was very young, younger than he is now, you could see the potential was insane," Klopp said.

"Physically, he sets new standards. The combination of being really physical and technical and [having] sensational awareness, his orientation on the pitch is exceptional, he is barely offside, he resets really well – there are so many things that make him a striker.

"Now, at City, he has some of the best players around him in the world in setting up goals and finding the right moment for the passes, with Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden, [Riyad] Mahrez, whoever. They all are really good at that.

"It's a perfect fit, there is no doubt about that."

Asked how Haaland might compare to other elite forwards, with Robert Lewandowski name-checked as a player Klopp worked with previously, the Liverpool manager said: "For Erling, I think it's that he combines so many things, and it's rare.

"His finishing skills are exceptional, but he also moves really smart. You can only use the speed if you use it in a smart way, because just running is not helpful if you forget the ball or whatever. Especially behind the line, you need to make sure that you are patient enough in not being offside.

"The package makes him special."

So, do Liverpool have any special plans for dealing with Haaland? That is tricky, Klopp said, when he plays for a side as good as City.

"When you play against, at the moment, the best striker in the world, you have to make sure he doesn't get that many balls," Klopp explained.

"That's what we will try, but against City, obviously the problem is if you close Haaland down with too many players then you open up gaps for all the other world-class players, so that will not make life easier.

"It's a challenge, a football problem. We will try to find solutions."

Pep Guardiola is ignoring Liverpool's below-par start to the Premier League season ahead of Manchester City's trip to Anfield on Sunday, declaring: "Nothing changes what I feel about Liverpool."

City and Liverpool have finished as the Premier League's top two teams in three of the last four seasons, but the Reds trail the champions by 13 points after a poor start to the new campaign.

Liverpool's tally of 10 points is their lowest at this stage of a season since 2012-13 (nine), and Jurgen Klopp's team have already lost as many league games this campaign as they did throughout the entirety of last term (two).

That form represents quite the drop-off for a side who went tantalisingly close to a stunning quadruple in 2021-22, but Guardiola believes City will still face a stern test.

"I had the feeling at Anfield we have played really well [in the past]," Guardiola said on Friday. "It's different circumstances, but you have to behave at a top, top level. 

"In Anfield, winning or losing, we have behaved with an incredible personality. It's a football game, Liverpool is important because of the quality they have.

"Liverpool were going for a prestigious achievement of four titles. For two little details, they didn't achieve what no English team has done.

"I pay zero attention to them being in a good moment or bad moment. They know in the last years, we have fought for most of the competitions and titles, and it's been really close.

"We were a bit better, especially in the Premier League, but nothing changes what I feel about Liverpool."

Pushed on whether Liverpool remain title contenders, Guardiola said: "Liverpool have always been our biggest challengers, and they will be now. Being in the position that we are, with the World Cup, anything can happen."

City have picked up four points from their last two league trips to Anfield, just one fewer than they earned in their previous 17 visits to Liverpool (D5 L12).

Should Guardiola's men avoid defeat on Sunday, it will represent the first time they have done so in three consecutive away league games against Liverpool since December 1992.

City's efforts could be hampered by the absences of England trio Kalvin Phillips, John Stones and Kyle Walker, but Guardiola says Erling Haaland and Bernardo Silva are raring to go after being rested at Copenhagen on Tuesday.

"John Stones will be back in, I don't know, maybe one week or 10 days. Kalvin is doing really well, but Kyle is out," Guardiola said.

"We have a lot of games, like all the teams. Players are recovering better. Erling could not play all the games last season. Bernardo was tired, but they feel good and are ready for Sunday."

Haaland has only played nine Premier League games for City, but he has already broken the records for most goals (15) and goal involvements (18) in a player's first 10 outings in the competition.

The Norwegian is just one goal away from matching the record for most goals scored by a player across any 10-game stint in Premier League history, set by former Liverpool attacker Luis Suarez – who from October to December 2013 scored 16 goals for the Reds.

Roberto Firmino was not supposed to be Liverpool's go-to man this season. If widespread reports were anything to go by, Firmino himself did not even envisage himself being at Anfield this campaign.

And yet here we are, midway through October, and no Liverpool player – not even the £350,000-a-week Mohamed Salah, despite his record-breaking six-minute hat-trick against Rangers – has played a part in more goals in all competitions this season than Firmino's eight.

Far from being the odd man out following the arrivals of Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez this year, Firmino has regularly stepped up for the Reds this season and is surely in contention to start Sunday's Premier League showdown against Manchester City.

Liverpool quite simply have to win at Anfield, where Firmino will come face-to-face with Europe's hottest striker in Erling Haaland, a player boasting 20 goals – six more than anyone else in Europe's top-five leagues – from his 13 appearances for City and feeling refreshed after a midweek rest. 

Ahead of the meeting between the Premier League's two most dominant forces over the past four seasons, Stats Perform looks at Firmino's figures in more detail and just why he may hold the key to Liverpool getting the better of the champions.



Amid all the noise surrounding Firmino's future heading into the 2022-23 campaign, with Juventus said to be in advanced talks to sign him, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp branded the forward "the heart and soul" of the team.

No wonder the German thinks so highly of the 31-year-old, with no Liverpool player playing more games (332), featuring for more minutes (23,899) or registering more assists (70) during Klopp's seven years in charge.

The arrivals of Diaz and Nunez, plus the impressive form of Diogo Jota, looked as though it would curtail Firmino's playing time, but he started three of Liverpool's opening four matches of the campaign, including the Community Shield win over City.

Firmino failed to register a single goal or assist in any of those matches, yet he retained the faith of Klopp – albeit helped by Jota being injured and Nunez suspended – and truly kick-started his campaign in the 9-0 thrashing of Bournemouth at the end of August.

In that game, a joint-record winning margin for a side in Premier League history, Firmino became the first Liverpool player to be directly involved in four goals in the first half of a match in the competition en route to scoring two and assisting three. If a reminder was needed of Firmino's qualities, this was very much it.

An important equaliser followed in Liverpool's next match, a late 2-1 win over Newcastle United; two goals to drag Liverpool back from two goals down in a 3-3 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion; another equaliser, this time in defeat to Arsenal; and then another two-goal and an assist showing in the 7-1 midweek Champions League rout of Rangers.

Those 12 goals and assists in all competitions is level with Salah's tally for the season, and double that of next-best Diaz, who has started three games more than the Brazil international. Per minute, no Liverpool player is performing better this season in an attacking sense.



Perhaps most remarkable of all as focus turns to Liverpool's meeting with City, Firmino is only one goal short of Haaland's tally for October (five goals compared to six). Across clubs from Europe's top-five leagues, when taking all competitions into account, Monaco's Wissam Ben Yedder is the only other player with five or more goals this month.

Firmino's five goals have come from an expected goals (xG) value of 1.43, incidentally, compared to six from an xG of 3.03 for Haaland – a difference of 3.57 and 2.97 respectively, suggesting the quality of Firmino's chances have been lower than those teed up for Haaland.

That is not to say Firmino is in the same league as Haaland right now – who is? – but on a personal level this is by some way his best start to a campaign for Liverpool. His eight goals after 11 games is at least two more than he has managed in his previous seven seasons at Anfield, while only in 2019-20 has he had more assists than his four this term.

But exactly why is that? Playing against a Bournemouth side unable to defend any balls into the box has admittedly skewed the figures somewhat, though it is clear to see that Firmino's game has also changed this season compared to last.

Just under 11 per cent of his touches of the ball in the Premier League this season have come within the width of the goal inside the penalty area, which is an increase on a figure of six per cent last time out. It was further back last season, and more towards the right, that he more occasionally touched the ball.

Indeed, all eight of his goals this season have come from that central zone inside the box – one via his head, three with his left foot and four with his right. 

Another interesting aspect of Firmino's game this season has been his movement, or more specifically his off-the-ball runs into the penalty area. He has made 89 of them in the Premier League in his 468 minutes on the field, which is the most per 90 minutes (17.1) of any player, followed by Haaland (14.1).

That may well be a tactic Liverpool will aim to take full advantage of against City, a side in which Firmino has scored or assisted against seven times in 14 top-flight appearances – only versus Arsenal (13 combined) does he have a better record against among top-five clubs.

So while plenty of the build-up to Sunday's showdown will – justifiably – be centred around Haaland and his remarkable scoring run, Liverpool will have born-again Bobby to call upon in a game they simply must win if they are to keep alive any hopes of challenging for the title.

Sergio Aguero has compared Manchester City talisman Erling Haaland to the likes of Lionel Messi and Ronaldo Nazario, backing the Norwegian to continue breaking records with Pep Guardiola's team.

Haaland has scored 20 goals in just 13 appearances since joining City from Borussia Dortmund, sending records tumbling during an incredible start to life in England.

The 22-year-old set a new Premier League record in August by scoring nine times in his first five outings, and he became the first player to score a hat-trick in three consecutive home games in the competition by starring in a 6-3 win over Manchester United this month.

Haaland's spectacular start in Manchester has earned him lofty praise from City legend Aguero, who has compared him to two South American greats.

"There's been many strikers worthy of awe I can think of," Aguero told "One of my favourites was Ronaldo Nazario, who time and time again proved to be the full package as a player, and a menace before the goalposts.

"Each era usually has two or three players with that ability – and usually with different styles. 

"Diego [Maradona], Romario, [Robert] Lewandowski, [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, and Leo, of course! Each had their own flair, but they were all tremendous scorers to a fault.

"Speaking of Haaland specifically, he's got potency, athleticism, and a particular instinct for goals, which makes him very dangerous. 

He's got everything to keep racking up amazing stats, especially being part of an offensively-minded team like City. That in turn means plenty of opportunities to score. 

"He's young and has a lot of potential to continue breaking records. Key to this, of course, will be consistency."

Aguero – City's all-time top scorer with 260 goals for the club in all competitions – believes Haaland, supported by the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden, is the ideal man to lead the club into a new era.

"When I left City, I shared how proud I was to have been part of a generation of players that made it one of the top clubs in the world," he added.

"That was a re-foundational period, with many big changes, that allowed City to become a force to be reckoned with.

"I also said it'd be up to a new generation to maintain this status and reach new heights. I think this new team is ready for that. 

"Kevin [De Bruyne] has an amazing record as a player, Haaland is on the right path. But it's not just the two of them. Phil Foden – my own favourite, Bernardo [Silva], [Ilkay] Gundogan, Rodri, [Aymeric] Laporte... each of their contributions make the team stronger."

Manchester United are joining Milan in the chase for midfielder Davide Frattesi, with Sassuolo reportedly willing to cash in on him if their asking price is met.

Frattesi, 23, burst onto the scene this past season after returning from three consecutive loan stints in Serie B, earning 35 league starts before taking a step forward this term with three goals in nine games.

His rapid ascension earned him his first senior international cap for Italy in June, and he has since started in big Nations League fixtures against Germany and England.

There was a belief he could leave the club this past transfer window, when Sassuolo also sold Gianluca Scamacca to West Ham, but his continued improvement means he could be gone in January.



According to Calciomercato, United sent scouts to Sassuolo to get a closer look at the six-foot tall midfielder, and were told he could be available for a price of €35million.

United may find that a bit rich after recent reports their financial position will only allow them to make a move for one of Jude Bellingham or Frenkie de Jong, but they could receive a cash injection of their own if they are to part ways with 23-year-old defender Diogo Dalot. Calciomercato also claims Dalot wishes to leave the club, and Juventus have a strong interest in him. 

Frattesi's contract ties him to the Serie A side until 2026, giving them all the leverage in the negotiation, and with Milan's interest already established, that price tag may not be an unreasonable demand.



– Gazzetta dello Sport are reporting Juventus are preparing a January move for Lazio's Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who will only have 18 months remaining on his contract.

– After reportedly turning down a bid of €60m from Paris Saint-Germain in the most recent transfer window, Tuttosport now claims Inter will accept a bid in the range of €25m for centre-back Milan Skriniar in January, with his contract set to expire at the end of the season.

– Sky Sport's Florian Plettenberg believes PSV forward Cody Gakpo has no interest in joining Leeds United, who are said to have launched a move for him on deadline day, and will instead hold out for a bigger move.

– According to Record, Tottenham are keen on signing 21-year-old Sporting midfielder Manuel Ugarte, although his price is believed to be set at €80m.

– The Athletic are reporting Erling Haaland has a €200m release clause in his Manchester City contract that can be activated by any team outside of England as soon as 2024.

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