Erling Haaland's sensational winner against Borussia Dortmund echoed two greats in the form of Johan Cruyff and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, says Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.
Haaland netted with an acrobatic 84th-minute volley from Joao Cancelo's expert center to seal three points for City against his former club in the Champions League on Wednesday.
It marked a fine turnaround after John Stones had already canceled out Jude Bellingham's opener with a fierce long-range hit at the Etihad Stadium.
For City boss Guardiola, Haaland's athletic effort drew comparisons to Cruyff's famous strike for Barcelona against Atletico Madrid in 1973 – often referred to as the 'ghost goal' due to the scarcity of the available quality footage.
"Maybe the people who know me, you know the influence Johan Cruyff had in my life, as a person, an educator, a manager and mentor, everything," Guardiola said.
"Johan Cruyff, years and years ago at Camp Nou he scored an incredible goal against Atletico Madrid. It was quite similar. The moment he scored the goal I thought, Johan Cruyff.
"It was quite similar. It was a really good one. The pass from Joao is exceptional, he has the ability to do this kind of thing. Simple things, every ball he has, he has to make this kind of action, I know he can do it. That's football, you cannot force it. He made an incredible assist pass and the finishing from Erling was exceptional."
While Guardiola idolizes Cruyff, he had a much tenser relationship with one of European football's modern greats, Ibrahimovic.
The striker spent just a season at Barcelona during Guardiola's tenure and the two did not see eye to eye.
Yet Guardiola sees the similarities in skill level between Haaland – who is now the youngest player in Champions League history to score for and against the same side in the competition – and the Milan forward, though he could not resist a sarcastic quip.
"The first impression that I had, I remember a little bit my friend, my dear friend Ibrahimovic, had this incredible ability to pull back in the air, you know, and Erling is quite similar on that," Guardiola added with a smile.
"He is elastic, flexible and to have that ability to make the contact to put it in the net. He is mature, and he has that flexibility."
The game marked Guardiola's 150th Champions League match as a manager, and he brought up his 95th win. Only two managers have won more games in the competition’s history – Alex Ferguson (102) and Carlo Ancelotti (100).
However, it was not an easy ride, with City performing well below their level until Dortmund took the lead. Indeed, their two goals came with their first two shots on target.
"We had a lot of problems to get our rhythm, we were so passive, our movements to be aggressive," explained Guardiola, who compared the match to the last time City met Dortmund, in the Champions League quarter-finals in April 2021.
"Yes, we struggled, we played in the wrong gear. We are who we are, win or lose, the way we played in the last 30 minutes when we realized we were 1-0 down. We gave it another rhythm.
"The Champions League doesn't wait, it doesn't forgive you. They defended really well, hopefully, we can learn the lesson for Saturday, against one of the toughest opponents we've had in the last few years against Wolves, and hopefully, it will help us against Dortmund in the [return match]."