Erling Braut Haaland's autograph will be one of the most coveted this summer, but one enthusiastic referee's assistant has beaten some of Europe's biggest clubs to the 20 year old's signature.
After Borussia Dortmund's 2-1 defeat to Manchester City in the Champions League quarter-final first leg on Tuesday, Octavian Sovre, one of the Romanian assistant referees, followed Haaland down the tunnel at Etihad Stadium and appeared to get him to sign a red and yellow card he produced from his top pocket.
"Maybe he's a fan of Haaland," said City manager Pep Guardiola. "Maybe it was for his son or daughter."
"I've never seen it before, but the referee and the linesman were correct, they did a good job. That's all."
Haaland is wanted by a host of clubs, including City and Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid.
He failed to add to his 10 Champions League goals already this season against City, but did set up Marco Reus for the Germans' vital away goal.
However, goals from Kevin de Bruyne and Phil Foden gave City a slender advantage heading into next week's second leg.
The Romanian officials were also involved in a couple of controversial incidents during the match.
City had a penalty overturned after a VAR review, while Dortmund's Jude Bellingham saw a first-half goal harshly ruled out for raising his boot to beat Ederson to the ball.
However, Guardiola defended their performance.
"The referees were brilliant. The game was not a problem.
"It was a penalty and after they saw on VAR it was not. After with Bellingham the action from the leg is higher than expected.
"The referees and the linesmen were correct so it was perfect."
MANCHESTER CITY RATINGS. Ederson - 6, Bravely stopped Reus, but was incredibly lucky to hear the whistle after he was tackled by Jude Bellingham. Did well to keep Erling Haaland out after he’d got past Ruben Dias. EPA
Kyle Walker - 6, Was so dominant in a lot of his defensive play, but Marco Reus managed to get away from him for the equaliser. Reuters
John Stones - 7, Dominant in his aerial duels and looked comfortable for large periods, whether he was on the ball or dealing with attacks. Haaland got the ball past him for the equaliser. AFP
Ruben Dias - 6, Did well to get the ball away from Haaland when the Norwegian threatened to cause a problem but was overpowered by him another time. There were a few moments where it seemed the centre-back may give the ball away in a dangerous area. Reuters
Joao Cancelo - 6, There were some sloppy moments from the full-back early on, but he fixed any problems and provided some great passes. Reuters
Rodri - 5, Got away with giving the ball away in a dangerous area but felt that he should have had a penalty – though the initial call was overturned by VAR. His touch was a bit off, as the ball rolled away from him more times than would be expected. EPA
Ilkay Gundogan - 8, Brought out some wonderful touches and showed brilliant composure to set up Phil Foden for the winner. AFP
Riyad Mahrez - 7, Was smart in his play to set up Kevin De Bruyne rather than shooting for the opener, though he could have done better with his effort towards the end of the first half. Reuters
Kevin De Bruyne - 9, Showed good movement and finished convincingly to score the opener, while his usual quality could be seen throughout the proceedings. Put in a wonderful ball for the winner. Reuters
Phil Foden - 9, Was lively throughout and tore Mateu Morey to shreds. Played a nice pass across the box for the opener. Will have thought he’d come away from this game without a goal but tucked the ball away right near the end. Reuters
Bernardo Silva - 7, Provided some great touches and there were periods where he controlled the pace of the game well. Reuters
SUB: Gabriel Jesus (Silva 59’) - 6, Helped to stretch the away side’s defence at times but couldn’t get into positions where he threatened the goal. EPA
BORUSSIA DORTMUND RATINGS. Marwin Hitz - 6, Had no chance for the goals but made some decent saves, the best of which came to deny Foden. Reuters
Mateu Morey - 5, Gave himself no chance of helping out defensively for the opener due to his positioning. Struggled to deal with Foden all night and got away with it when his attempted clearance spun back to the goalkeeper. EPA
Manuel Akanji - 7, Had some eye-catching moments on the ball and often looked strong defensively. Reuters
Mats Hummels - 7, Misplaced a few of his passes but showed his defensive quality, making interventions and tackles at key times. Reuters
Raphael Guerreiro - 6, Couldn’t get involved as much as he probably would have liked in an attacking sense, but held his own defensively. Reuters
Jude Bellingham - 8, Felt hard-done-by when his tackle on Ederson was deemed to be a foul, and he was then booked for it. Was composed on the ball, which was vital when he got the ball around the corner to Haaland for the equaliser. EPA
Emre Can - 4, Gave the ball away to start the move that resulted in the opener and was booked during the penalty incident that was overturned. There were various times where he thought too slowly with the ball at his feet. Reuters
Mahmoud Dahoud - 7, Was neat on the ball and showed moments of quality, while he also put in some impressive work defensively. EPA
Ansgar Knauff - 6, He was thrown in at the deep end, making his first ever start, and while he wasn’t completely out of place, the teenager struggled to get much out of either City full-back. Reuters
Erling Haaland - 7, Spent so much of the game on the periphery of proceedings but came alive to set up the equaliser. Saw his effort saved after getting the better of Dias. Reuters
Marco Reus – 8, Was aesthetically pleasing with the ball at his feet throughout, but even better, he scored the equaliser. Came so close to intercepting a Dias pass inside the City box. EPA
SUB: Giovanni Reyna (Knauff 63’) - 6, Worked hard and showed moments of quality but couldn’t really display his talents in their entirety. Reuters
SUB: Thomas Delaney (Dahoud 81’) – N/R, Did the basics well but couldn’t quite help Dortmund keep City out. EPA
SUB: Thomas Meunier (Morey 81’) – N/R, Allowed Gundogan and Foden to run off the back of him for the winner. Reuters
This is not the first time the conduct of Sovre or Romanian officials has been called into question this season.
The match officials was also reprimanded for "inappropriate behaviour" by Uefa after a Champions League group game between Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir was postponed in December.
The match was suspended for 24 hours after
allegations of racism against fourth official Sebastian Coltescu.
Coltescu was accused of describing Basaksehir's Cameroonian assistant coach Pierre Webo as "black", or "negru" in Romanian.
Uefa cleared Coltescu of racism but he was banned from officiating for the rest of the season.
Coltescu and Sovre were also ordered to attend an educational programme.
Published: April 7, 2021 03:03 PM