This week’s Champions League ties promise to be a turning point as we head into the business end of the season, and it could also be that we see the games that start to define the growing narrative over Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe.
Mbappe has long been considered the player most likely to replace Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at the very top of world football in years to come, and he’ll no doubt hope to have a big impact for Paris Saint-Germain against Bayern Munich on Wednesday night in a bid to get his club one step closer to finally winning the much-coveted Champions League trophy.
MORE: Real Madrid consider sale of €150m Eden Hazard to raise funds for Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland transfers
But has Haaland now taken his place as the true Golden Boy of this generation? The 20-year-old Norwegian’s scoring stats, particularly in Europe’s top club competition, are incredible, with 20 goals in his first 14 appearances at this level.
Haaland’s Borussia Dortmund side will be taking on Manchester City in what could be his chance to audition in front of watching Premier League clubs ahead of what promises to be a major transfer battle for the young goal machine’s signature this summer.
Mbappe has often been linked with Liverpool by the Transfer Window Podcast and others, but could Haaland actually be the better option for the Reds?
“Liverpool need a clinical finisher more than a creator”
“It really depends on what Jurgen Klopp wants from the player as they’re quite different,” Ste Carson of Liverpool FC blog Empire of the Kop tells CaughtOffside. “Haaland is direct and a pure goal-scorer, whereas Mbappe likes to drift out wide and use his pace and dribbling to create chances, as well as finish them off. With Mo Salah and Sadio Mane pretty much nailed-on to start every game for Liverpool, Haaland becomes the clear option for me.
“The Norwegian is a freak of nature, scoring an unreal 33 goals in 32 games for Dortmund, and Liverpool need a clinical finisher more than a creator. Haaland has a raw competitiveness about him too, which is brilliant. It was great to see him getting in Bono’s face in the Champions League after being taunted by the Sevilla goalkeeper – all the best players in the world have an edge to them like that.”
“No doubt even the biggest stars have bad days, and we’ve seen that in abundance with both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi over the years, but it’s all about attitude and I can’t get the image of Mbappe sulking after a game, dragging his suitcase the wrong way through a mixed zone, and just looking like a stroppy pre-teen, out of my head. No-one can truly be judged by a single moment, but it’s just left an impression on me and I’m not overly keen.
“I also think Mbappe and PSG would command a larger transfer fee than Haaland, which is an important factor to consider.”
Fellow LFC writer Farrell Keeling disagrees, however, as he views Mbappe as the more natural fit for Jurgen Klopp’s style of football.
“Kylian Mbappe would appear to be the obvious choice for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool – funds permitting – considering his contribution to the overall play of the forward line; you’re not just getting goals in abundance, you’re getting assists, chances, link-up play,” Farrell says.
“Of course, that’s not to say you don’t get that at all with Haaland, but the Norwegian is a far more goal-centric, physical, out and out striker and it shows in the stats. On the basis of how our front-three is currently set up, I think the PSG star would make more sense on paper in terms of a ‘natural’ fit.
“However, if Klopp is looking to shake up the side once more as part of our general evolution going forward, you’d be very tempted to go for someone more direct like Haaland – a pure goal machine. It’s a compromise in system that I’m not sure we’re ready to make.”
Chelsea are certainly a team who could do with a new forward after the struggles of Timo Werner, so could Haaland be the ideal man to add goals to this side? Blues blogger Will Faulks, of Chelsea News, is cautious about his club’s chances of signing either player, but admits he has a slight preference for Mbappe.
Chelsea in a “great position” to sign Haaland
“Chelsea have been linked with Erling Haaland a lot, and it’s no longer just a niche Football Rumour Twitter thing – I noticed Micah Richards and Gaby Logan talking about it on the BBC coverage of the FA Cup quarter finals yesterday,” Will tells CaughtOffside.
“I don’t think there’s anything too concrete for Chelsea fans to get excited about just yet. Of course the club are watching Haaland, and of course they’re keen to sign him this summer if they can – but the same can probably be said for every club he’s willing to consider moving to.
“The fact that Chelsea look short a top striker, and that Haaland is probably at a team a level below where he should be, makes it an easy rumour to join the dots on. But until we hear a bit more Chelsea-specific information, one can only assume they’re just waiting in line with the other interested clubs. Each will have to make a convincing offer to Dortmund, and to Haaland, if they want him. Chelsea are in a great position to do that, both financially and in terms of offering a great project for the striker to join.
“Even if they don’t sign him, it would be very surprising if they’re not one of the teams chasing him to the bitter end. Don’t rule them out until you see Haaland holding another team’s shirt at the introductory press conference.
“As for Mbappe – he’s got many more years experience playing at the very top level, and is perhaps the only player in the world you can electrify an audience like Haaland at the moment. Would I prefer him at Chelsea? Probably, by a hair. And just for aesthetics really.
“But the reality is that his future seems far more set, and I’m sure he’s going to be at Barcelona or (more likely) Real Madrid in the next 18 months. Haaland is a much more open question, so if I’m going to get excited about one of them coming to Stamford Bridge, it would be him…”
Can PSG keep Mbappe?
Ed of PSG Talk also offered his perspective on the Mbappe vs Haaland debate, and added that he feels the French giants can keep hold of their star player for a little while longer.
Much to the disappointment of Premier League fans, Ed also expects Mbappe to end up at Real Madrid eventually, rather than anywhere in England.
“I view the Mbappe vs. Haaland debate as premature and quite frankly, the whole thing feels manufactured by the media,” Ed tells CaughtOffside.
“I’m a PSG supporter, so if I’m asked who has the higher ceiling I’m going to go with Mbappe. He just has those intangibles that you can’t teach. His speed is world-class and his mastery of controlling the ball and beating a defender is Cristiano Ronaldo-esque. Haaland has speed as well, but he relies more on his strength and awareness to find those pockets of space in the defence. As we saw last season in the Champions League, Presnel Kimpembe was able to match his strength and absolutely rendered him useless in the second leg of the tie.
“Whether PSG can keep Mbappe is the question everyone wants to know. In my opinion, I believe they can, at least for a few more years, because of his age and the amount of money he demands. With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the finances of the biggest football clubs in Europe, there is no one that can pay Mbappe more than what PSG is paying him now except for PSG.
“His age comes into play because even if he signs a contract extension for two or three years, by the time that runs down, he’ll still be in his prime and hopefully by then, he would have delivered a Champions League title. When Mbappe does leave France, I don’t see him going to the Premier League or Barcelona. I think he only has eyes for Real Madrid.”
Could Mbappe and Haaland link up together at the Parc des Princes? “I don’t think there’s any chance Haaland comes to PSG whether Mbappe is there or not,” Ed says. “I don’t think he wants to play in Ligue 1 and PSG already has Mauro Icardi who they spent €50million on to sign from Inter.
“Hopefully, PSG will look to make Moise Kean’s loan permanent and let other clubs fight over Haaland, who at some point has to start winning trophies and advancing deep into the Champions League to justify the hype.”