As Cristiano Ronaldo celebrated a remarkable 700th career club goal with the winner for Manchester United at Everton last weekend, it seems difficult to envisage any modern-day forward coming close to the feats of the Portuguese icon.
But over at neighbors Manchester City there is someone who may have the age and ability to yet challenge the game’s current goalscoring greats such as Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Having netted 20 times in his first 13 games — taking a career total to 155 goals — Erling Haaland has been outstanding since his £51.2-million summer switch from Borussia Dortmund.
It is no surprise to City team-mate Bernardo Silva, who also believes the potential is there for the Norway striker, 22, to make the same impact as the 37-year-old Ronaldo.
“You never know what will happen, Erling’s still very young, still got a lot to do, but the mentality is there, so yes,” said Bernardo, who plays alongside Ronaldo for Portugal’s national team.
“I’m playing with Erling (for City) so I hope so. But the standards are so high — Cristiano has won five Ballon d’Ors, six Champions Leagues — but I’m very impressed by Erling.
“Honestly, I was speaking with a few friends the other day and I said he is the only player who gets close to Cristiano in terms of knowing where the ball will land inside the box.
“He’s got that smell of knowing where it lands and he’s so quick and strong, which is not easy for defenders.”
Haaland will be bidding to score for a fifth successive Premier League away game when City visit Liverpool on Sunday.
With hat-tricks against Crystal Palace, Nottingham Forest and in the 6-3 Manchester derby success over United, he already has 15 league goals in nine matches.
“We knew what was coming, the type of player he was, the ambition he has,” added the 28-year-old Bernardo, who also played with French forward Kylian Mbappe at Monaco.
“You look at his face during the games and he just wants to go for it and win the games for us — and then also he’s a very nice guy.
“You never know what you are getting with new players, so getting a player like him with his quality, and such a nice guy as well, it’s top for the team.
Bernardo says he’s been “amazed” by how humble Haaland is and how he accepts he is just one more player in the team.
“If you see him running in games, he presses like a beast, like each one of us — that’s top.
“The humility of knowing that it doesn’t matter how good you are or how much better you are, but the more you have to set the example and the more you have to run for the team — and he does that.”
Despite having won back-to-back league titles, Haaland looks to have taken Pep Guardiola’s side to another level.
“We have always had good results over the last few years, but it’s true that now we have a player up front that is so strong, big and the other teams fear a little bit of that,” Bernardo told Arab News exclusively.
“But the way we play is the same and we are happy with the results lately,” said Bernardo. “Personally, I feel if me and the other midfielders and defenders do our jobs properly then we have so much quality up front.
“With players like Kevin (De Bruyne), Phil (Foden) and with Erling, they can decide the games, they can take care of the rest.
“But we have to do a proper job, control the rhythm of the game and then we know the weapons we have up front.”
Unbeaten this season, City are a point behind league leaders Arsenal but 13 clear of Liverpool.
But having been City’s main title challengers over the past five seasons, Bernardo says it would be folly to rule out the Reds, who showed a return to form by routing Rangers 7-1 in their midweek Champions League tie.
“When the season started we were struggling a bit, still winning games but it felt like it wasn’t perfect,” he added. “Now it feels like that, that the team is well.
“The confidence levels are good, we are scoring and not conceding goals and stable in the game. It’s just the beginning though and we have to keep playing like this.
“It’s still going to be tough and we have tough opponents coming up like Liverpool . . . we know how tough it is against them.
“They have been our biggest rivals over the last five years and it’s always a challenge to play against them. Liverpool is a very important game for us.
“It doesn’t make any difference how they have started, what their form is like, honestly. What they did in the last five years, you can’t look at them and think, ‘oh they are a bit weak at the moment.’ No, no chance. They are so strong and it is going to be so difficult for us.”
Liverpool signed Uruguay striker Darwin Nunez in the summer, but the £85-million club-record buy from Bernardo’s former club Benfica has scored four times and was sent off on his home debut against Crystal Palace.
“He has joined from my old team Benfica so I know of him very well because I used to watch all the Portuguese games,” added Bernardo. “He’s a quick player, got that quality of knowing where the ball will land and scoring goals.”
“Sometimes it’s not easy when you change country, change the culture. He still needs to learn a new language and adapt to a new style of play.
“I think he will adapt and he will get to where he wants to be. Hopefully not, because I’m on other side of the competition, but I see a lot of quality in Darwin.”
City have notoriously struggled at Anfield, with a 4-1 league win in 2021 only their third in 65 years, and Bernardo said: “We know how difficult it is to play at Anfield, with their crowd, but we are going to try.”
“We are feeling good at the moment and we go there to win as usual. We have always tried to win there in the past, but just couldn’t. We won just one season there, for many different reasons and in different circumstances, but the team feels good.
“Our levels of confidence are very high and we are going to prepare very well.”
While City have yet to win the Champions League, Bernardo has lifted nine trophies, including four Premier League titles, since arriving from Monaco in 2017.
And he insisted their mindset had not changed. “We want to win as many titles as possible this season,” added the midfielder, who decided to stay at City this summer despite being linked with Barcelona.
“We are going to try to win them all, go for all of them as we do every single season. So this season is not an exception, we don’t change.
“The Premier League is the most important one and the Champions League is something we are after for a very long time — and we haven’t done it yet.
“And then there are the other cup competitions that count — the FA Cup, Carabao Cup — and we have the World Cup in the middle of the season, so lots of things to think about.
“We just have to keep going. It’s still only October and a long way to go and competitions to play, lots of games. It’s not going to be an easy season, but we are doing well at the moment.”