When Erling Haaland became the youngest, fastest man to 20 Uefa Champions League goals, he was angry. The landmark had been briefly postponed, his pride had been hurt, and his ears were burning.
The occasion, only Haaland’s 14th game in football’s principal club competition, was the second leg of a last-16 tie at his then club Borussia Dortmund, Sevilla the visitors. Dortmund were awarded a penalty to extend their aggregate lead to 5-2. It set up a heavyweight duel: hotshot Haaland against spot-kick specialist Yassine "Bono" Bounou.
The Norwegian, with a studied pause in his run up, aimed low to the Moroccan goalkeeper’s left. Bono parried on to the post, Haaland sprang to the rebound, and Bono saved again, brilliantly. But there was a follow-up – a roared remark from Bono right into the face of the 20-year-old Haaland. And still more follow-up when referee Cuneyt Cakir ordered the penalty be retaken because Bono had advanced a stride off his goalline.
Haaland, at the second attempt, again struck his effort low to the goalkeeper’s left. This time it worked. This time, he was roaring, barking the same word – the "jinx" phrase, "Kiricocho", that football folklore says will put off an opponent – at Bono that the keeper had shouted at Haaland. The episode went viral. It added to the piquant rivalry the phenomenal Haaland has built up with Sevilla.
Haaland’s Manchester City meet the Spanish club in Piraeus on Wednesday in the Uefa Super Cup, a novel date for City as first-time Champions League holders, but very familiar for Sevilla, whose seven triumphs this century in the Uefa Cup or Europa League mean they have become regulars.
To the relief of City manager Pep Guardiola, ahead of an evening forecast to be hot and humid, there will be no extra-time in this one, Uefa having adjusted the format so that the outcome will be settled directly with penalties if, after 90 minutes, it is a draw.
It is a small mercy for Guardiola, who has expressed his concerns at the extra workload his Treble winners face. Their status as European champions obliges them to take part in both the Super Cup and the Fifa Club World Cup in December.
Defeat Sevilla and they would remain on course for five trophies in the calendar year. And no opponent in European competition stimulates Haaland, now on 35 goals from 30 Champions League fixtures, quite like Sevilla, who lost that 2020-21 tie 5-4 in the end, Haaland scoring twice for Dortmund in each leg.
He then made his City debut in Europe at Sevilla last September. He registered another brace in a 4-0 win. Three meetings; six goals.
The most recent Haaland hurricane to hit Sevilla would push the Spaniards towards relegation into the Europa League, where they went on to defeat Roma in an austere final, Bono’s assurance in a decisive penalty shoot-out to the fore, as it had been during the World Cup for Morocco.
But the Sevilla goalkeeper, beginning his fifth season with the club, is not at all certain to still be there in September, his heroics at the World Cup and his consistent excellence in La Liga and in Europe having made him a target for several superclubs.
Real Madrid were in contact last week with Sevilla, where Bono has two years left on his contract, when Thibaut Courtois, Madrid’s first-choice keeper, was ruled out for several months with a cruciate ligament injury. Counting against a Madrid bid was Bono’s likely and probably extended absence from club football serving his country at the Africa Cup of Nations in January and February.
Bayern Munich, unclear about Manuel Neuer’s recovery schedule from a broken leg he sustained at the end of last year, still have Bono on their radar and as the Sevilla president, Jose Castro arrived in Athens on Tuesday, he had an equivocal message to all potential suitors for his superstar shot-stopper.
“For now, Bono is with Sevilla,” he said. “When there are offers, we will analyse them and if we believe it’s for the right sum, we’ll see if there’s the possibility of a transfer.
“We have a team of champions and they carry a price. But if the price is right for us to keep growing, we’ll go with it. If an offer doesn’t meet that requirement, he’ll stay with Sevilla.”
Mendilibar may well be without Fernando, the former City midfielder, because of illness – the Brazilian did not travel with the rest of the squad – while City have left Kevin De Bruyne, who is injured – and Bernardo Silva – reportedly unwell – at home. Ruben Dias is also missing and John Stones a fitness doubt, which could mean City’s new signing, the €90 million defender Josko Gvardiol makes his first start.