By Manuel Sánchez Gómez
London, Oct 7 (EFE).- Not only has Erling Haaland reversed City’s shortcomings in front of goal but the presence of the Norwegian star has provided a solution to another of Pep Guardiola’s top priorities by filling up the Etihad with fans.
In September last year, just 38,000 people turned up to watch Manchester City demolish RB Leipzig 6-3 in the Champions League Group A opener.
“I’d like more people to come on Saturday,” Guardiola said in the post-match interview ahead of a Premier League tie with Southampton.
A year later, 52,000 fans showed up to see City bulldoze Copenhagen 5-0 in the Champions League. The difference? A young star by the name of Haaland.
Haaland’s summer signing sent ticket demand surging in the blue half of Manchester.
Like all English clubs, City can bank on high attendance in the Premier League but numbers wane on the European stage.
The addition of Haaland, however, has bridged the gap at the Etihad, which has a capacity of 55,000.
Attendance figures for the first five games of the 2022/23 season have surpassed those of last year, and have not dipped below 50,000.
The number of fans peaked at 54,000 for City’s 6-3 win against their cross-city rivals Manchester United last weekend, in which Haaland became the first player in Premier League history to score three successive home hat-tricks.
With Haaland in their lineup, City are looking to expand their presence in the Scandinavian market, which is traditionally dominated by Manchester United thanks to former player and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
To that end, and with last year’s Premier League trophy in hand, City representatives fronted by former striker Paul Dickov, a friend and ex-teammate of Erling’s dad, Alf Inge Haaland, head to Norway for a tour that coincided with the derby.
“The Premier League has always been a big thing in Norway, and especially Liverpool and Manchester United have big fanbases,” Adrian Richvoldsen, a Norwegian journalist for the online newspaper Nettavisen who has closely watched Haaland’s career in Germany and now England, told Efe.
“But the interest has increased a lot after Haaland signed for Manchester City.
“I have friends who haven’t watched the Premier League in many years now subscribing and paying what it costs to watch Manchester City, but first and foremost Erling Braut Haaland,” he added.
“It’s an absolute Haaland mania in Norway.”
For Viaplay, which owns the broadcasting rights for the Premier League in Norway, Haaland has proved a gold mine.
The Sweden-based channel, which costs Norwegian customers 649 krone ($60) a month, has seen a 10% rise in share price and a whopping 69% in subscribers to a total of 5.5 million in its broadcasting area.
Its aim now is to hit 7.3 million subscribers by the end of the year as the Norwegian continues to make his impact in England.