Not a good look
Everyone wants a piece of Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland these days. The 20-year-old Norwegian is blossoming into one of the finest attackers in the world, with 21 Bundesliga goals this season and another 10 in the Champions League (plus one hilarious instance of trash talk). The race between the world’s biggest clubs to sign him this summer has already begun in earnest, but Haaland has already put pen to paper in an unexpected way: After Tuesday’s Champions League match, one of the assistant referees, Octavian Șovre, tracked Haaland down in the tunnel and asked him to autograph his yellow card.
The commentators for BT Sport in the U.K. found the autograph request embarrassing.
“You can be a fan, but you can’t do that in front of the other players, it just doesn’t look right,” former Manchester United and Manchester City midfielder Owen Hargreaves said.
“There’s never a right time for that, it just doesn’t bode well for the officials. It’s a childish thing to see,” Joleon Lescott, another former Premier League player, said.
The optics were especially bad considering the history of this particular officiating crew. This was the same crew assigned to call the match between Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir in which players from both teams walked off the pitch after the fourth official, Sebastian Coltescu, was accused of directing a racist comment at an assistant coach for the Turkish club. Coltescu was later suspended by UEFA.
The officiating wasn’t great in Tuesday’s game either. In the 37th minute, Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham appeared to have been gifted an easy goal after a misplay by City goalkeeper Ederson. But Bellingham was called for a phantom foul.
That would have been a crucial away goal in the first leg of the two-match tie, but instead Dortmund will enter the second leg trailing 2–1 after Phil Foden’s late winner for City.
City boss Pep Guardiola didn’t have a problem with the autograph request.
“They told me, I didn’t see it, maybe he’s a fan,” he told reporters. “Why not? The referees were brilliant, the game was not a problem. Not a penalty, the VAR said that.
“It happens but they did a good job, that’s all. Nothing happened.”
He’d probably be singing a different tune if Dortmund had won the game.
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