Pep Guardiola joked he took Erling Haaland off against Burnley to preserve a Lionel Messi record.
The Norway international scored his sixth hat-trick of the season in Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final at Etihad Stadium, four days after his five-goal haul in the Champions League demolition of RB Leipzig.
Manchester City boss Guardiola was criticised by some after substituting Haaland in that match, denying the striker the chance to break the record for the most goals scored in a Champions League clash.
Haaland now shares that record with Paris Saint-Germain forward Messi, and Guardiola could not resist a quip when facing the media after the 6-0 win against Burnley.
“I didn’t want him to break the record for Messi. I try to punish my players – it is my intention!” he joked.
On a more serious note, Guardiola praised Haaland for his mentality and believes that is integral to his stellar record.
6 – Erling Haaland has scored more hat-tricks in all competitions this season (6) than every other Premier League player combined (5).
6 – Erling Haaland
1 – Mohamed Salah
1 – Ivan Toney
1 – Son Heung-min
1 – Phil Foden
1 – Leandro Trossard
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 18, 2023
“This guy will have a problem in the future because everyone will expect to him to get three or four every game, and that’s not going to happen,” he added.
“But I know him, he doesn’t care about that. He is so positive and optimistic in his life. He never complains and, as long as the team plays with this intensity, he will score goals, though the exact target, I don’t know.
“He is so effective and is such an incredible threat with his power. But his joy of life, always thinking good things will happen, that helps too.”
Haaland’s tally in all competitions now stands at 42, putting him just two shy of the record held by Ruud van Nistelrooy and Mohamed Salah across all competitions in the Premier League era.
The City number nine will have plenty of opportunities to surpass that total, with Guardiola’s side set to continue their fight on three fronts after the international break.