Giant billboards are one thing, but Kevin de Bruyne chose an even better way of welcoming Erling Haaland to Manchester City.
After the Belgian scored the third goal of his magnificent four-goal haul against Wolves on Wednesday night, he celebrated in style by copying Haaland’s iconic meditation celebration.
It was quite the statement. Just a day after City announced they had agreed to sign the prolific Norway striker from Borussia Dortmund, they hardly looked short of attacking power at Molineux.
Wolves did not even play that badly, yet with De Bruyne at the centre of the storm they were blown away as City won 5-1 and moved to within four points of a fourth Premier League title in five seasons.
They already take some stopping, but everyone inside the stadium and far beyond was left wondering how good they will be once Haaland is on board next season.
For now, though, it appears they don’t need him – especially with De Bruyne in goalscoring form like this.
The 30-year-old has been better known for demonstrating his exceptional creative powers since joining City in 2015, but it appears he has been listening to his manager’s advice to try to find the net more himself, as well as providing his trademark assists.
He was so willing to shoot, all of his first three goals came with his so-called weaker left foot as he completed his first City hat-trick inside 24 minutes – the third-quickest in Premier League history from the start of a match.
A fourth, with his right-foot, followed after the break. It was a scintillating solo display which meant De Bruyne now has 19 goals in all competitions this season – and it is fair to say his manager was impressed.
“Unstoppable, brilliant, awesome, outstanding, perfect,” was Guardiola’s verdict afterwards. He was not exaggerating either.
“Kevin always had the ability to create the special things,” Guardiola added.
“Always we push him to say he is an incredible player, generous with assists, but he has to score goals and this season is the most prolific he has had since we are together.
“We spoke to him about running into the box and being closer to the box and this season he has done it better and better.
“I am very pleased for him because of course scoring four goals in the decisive part of the league right now is so important.
“Hopefully it will continue, not just this season but for the rest of his career – I have a feeling that he has started to enjoy scoring goals.
“Before it was just assists, but now I think he likes it – he likes it when his team-mates come to hug him.”
Team effort the key for De Bruyne
De Bruyne was, typically, far more modest when he was quizzed about his evening’s work and was already thinking of City’s next test, away at West Ham on Sunday.
“It was a great start from the team and myself,” he said. “I thought we played a good game away so I am very happy with the team.
“We alternated really well. Whenever Bernardo Silva or Phil Foden was going into the space, we went vice versa. Whenever we had opportunities in the first half we scored, and that changed the dynamic of the game.
“Whenever we play, we have to play the game we play. That’s what we did today and we will have to do the same against West Ham.
“West Ham have had a great season and played really well. It is their last home game of the season so we know it will be a tough one. We don’t have a lot of players – it is about commitment, but it is going to be hard.”
City have more problems at the back
Guardiola gave a welcome of his own to Haaland, saying he was “very pleased” he had chosen City.
“Big congratulations to the club because they have signed a player for the next years, because he is a young talented player.
“Next season we are going to work together. Hopefully he can settle – we are going to help him settle as soon as possible in terms of Manchester, his house and everything, and I am pretty sure he is going to adapt quick to the way we want to be.
“He has scored a lot of goals in his career and we are going to help him have more chances to score goals.”
Haaland’s arrival will give Guardiola a formidable forward line but his issues as they try to get over the line this campaign appear to be at the other end of the pitch.
Injuries to Ruben Dias, John Stones and Kyle Walker on top of Nathan Ake’s lack of fitness had already left them short of defenders but they saw two more, Aymeric Laporte and Fernandinho, limp off on Wednesday.
Fernandinho was already filling in alongside Laporte at centre-back because of a lack of numbers and Guardiola did not seem optimistic he will be available at the weekend.
“Apparently it doesn’t look good – there are some muscular problems for Fernandinho, which could make it difficult for Sunday, while Aymeric had a tough knock on his knee,” he explained. “We will have to see how they recover.”