Manchester: There will be a notable absentee from next year’s European Championship. Erling Haaland.
While Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Kane, Kylian Mbappe and Romelu Lukaku have the chance to extend their goal-scoring records and legacies at Euro 2024, Haaland will likely be on vacation after Norway’s failure to qualify for the tournament held in June and July.
That might be welcome news for Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, allowing his star striker the chance to rest after a long season. But it robs Haaland of the chance to compete for one of the biggest international prizes, having also missed out on last year’s World Cup.
It could also impact his ambitions of winning the Ballon d’Or award next year and being confirmed the world’s No 1 football player.
International trophies are a key factor in determining who wins the sport’s biggest individual prize.
Take away Lionel Messi’s World Cup triumph with Argentina last year and the Ballon d’Or would likely have been won by the goal-scoring powerhouse behind City’s trophy treble of the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup. Instead, Haaland had to settle for the position of runner-up after a season in which he scored 52 goals.
Messi picked up the golden ball for a record-extending eighth time. Perhaps he will be in contention for a ninth if he can lead Argentina to victory in next year’s Copa America and win more silverware with Inter Miami in MLS.
Ronaldo, too, is showing little sign of lowering his ambitions on the international stage, despite moving to Saudi Arabia with Al Nassr. He is already the leading scorer in international soccer with 128 goals.
If selected by Portugal, he will appear in his sixth Euros, having played in a record 25 matches in the finals and scored the most goals in tournament history with 14.
He will be 39 by then and part of a Portugal team that will be among the favourites after a perfect winning record of 10 out of 10 in qualifying.
Even if he is playing his club soccer in Saudi Arabia, it would be difficult to look past Ronaldo for the Ballon d’Or if he won the Euros for a second time so late in his storied career.
Kane may have ended his long wait for silverware by time the Euros come around after his move to Bayern Munich in the off-season. England’s all-time record scorer has made a spectacular start to life in Germany with 21 goals in 15 appearances for his new club.
Bayern is likely to be one of the main rivals to City for this year’s Champions League on the back of Kane’s goal-scoring form. And in an England team that was runner-up at the last Euros and has been boosted by an ever-maturing Jude Bellingham, Kane will have his sights on ending his country’s wait for a first trophy since the World Cup in 1966.
Mbappe, who scored a hat trick in France’s 14-0 win against Gibraltar last week, is closing in on Olivier Giroud’s all-time record of 56 goals for the national team. The Paris Saint-Germain striker is on 46 goals.
He and Haaland have been tipped to succeed Messi and Ronaldo as soccer’s next global icons and France’s greater potential than Norway to win international honours could give Mbappe an advantage.
Even Lukaku, whose club career has been on the downturn over the past two years, has more hope than Haaland of winning big for his country.
His scoring feats for Belgium just keep on improving, with 83 goals in 113 appearances, while he was also the leading scorer in Euros qualifying with 14.
Robert Lewandowski could also still make the tournament if Poland advances via the playoffs.
It is a problem that could haunt Haaland throughout his career if Norway continues to miss out on the big tournaments. His goal-scoring prowess is likely to see him break numerous records and win a slew of trophies with City.
Ballon d’Ors should follow.
But with Mbappe, in particular, expected to be his biggest rival in the years to come, he may regularly have to watch on with envy as the France striker gets to showcase his talents on international football’s grandest stages.