Man City favourite Zabaleta labels Haaland the world's best, claims Sterling is not a club legend

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Manchester City favourite Pablo Zabaleta believes Pep Guardiola's men have signed the world's best player in Erling Haaland, as he refuted suggestions departing winger Raheem Sterling was a club legend.

Having scored a remarkable 86 goals in 89 appearances during a two-year spell at Borussia Dortmund, Haaland agreed to sign for City in May before officially joining the Premier League champions on July 1.

In his final campaign with the Bundesliga outfit, Haaland scored 29 goals in 30 games in all competitions, putting away 65.8 per cent of his big chances as he became one of world football's hottest properties.

Haaland is part of a City squad embarking on a pre-season tour of the United States, and could make his bow when they face Mexican giants Club America in Texas on Thursday.

Zabaleta, who made 333 appearances for the club between 2008 and 2017, believes City have acquired the world's finest in the Norwegian striker, and hopes his arrival will fire Guardiola's team to a first Champions League title.

"He's a big lad, eh? I saw him and was like, 'wow'," Zabaleta told Sky Sports. "He was one of the main players on the market and a lot of top teams were looking to sign him.

"We're all very pleased to have him at the club, I think he's got that connection already with Man City, because of his dad playing for the club.

"For me, I would say he's the best player in the world.

Erling Haaland
Erling Haaland

"He's a world-class player, he's a great signing, the same as Kalvin Phillips. Fernandinho left and the club needed to bring someone in to replace him. He's been really good at Leeds.

"All the players have been doing everything they can to make the club better, domestically they won everything, they have been very successful [and] dominated English football for the last 10 years.

"The Champions League is probably one of those competitions the club is looking for. I'm confident, hopefully they can win it soon."

Haaland's arrival has been facilitated by City allowing versatile attackers Sterling and Gabriel Jesus to leave for Premier League rivals Chelsea and Arsenal respectively.

After joining from Liverpool in 2015, Sterling scored 91 goals and recorded 42 assists in 225 Premier League appearances for City.

Only Sergio Aguero with 184 has scored more goals in the competition for the club, while only David Silva (93), Kevin De Bruyne (85) and Aguero (47) have laid on more goals for team-mates.

Sterling has scored 27 times in the six-yard box since August 2016
Sterling has scored 27 times in the six-yard box since August 2016

Sterling also won four league titles, one FA Cup and five EFL Cups with the club, but Zabaleta does not believe that is enough to put him alongside some of the most illustrious names in City's history, as he accused the England forward of showing a lack of respect for City since departing.

"I think the word 'legend' these days in football is a bit overused sometimes," he added. "I think he's done a great job for the club, he came at a very young age, and he's been absolutely brilliant for the club.

"When I say 'legend', for me, it's Silva, Aguero, [Vincent] Kompany, those guys are on a different level. That's why they have statues outside of the club.

"Raheem, he's been great, so we wish him all the best. He went to a team which obviously is a big contender for the Premier League, I wish him all the best, he's a great lad.

"But Man City is always the most important thing and when you come to this club you have to give 100 per cent respect. The moment that you leave you always have to talk nicely to the club that you've been playing for, so I wish he could behave in that way."

Meanwhile, City announced on Tuesday that Sterling's old number seven shirt will be worn by full-back Joao Cancelo during the 2021-22 season.

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