Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst has told ESPN that Erling Haaland is in the same bracket as Paris Saint-Germain‘s Kylian Mbappe as the Scottish champions wait to discover whether they will face the Borussia Dortmund striker in Thursday’s Europa League round-of-32 first-leg at Signal Iduna Park.
Haaland, 21, returned to training on Wednesday after being sidelined with a muscular strain playing against Hoffenheim last month and is expected to be named in Marco Rose’s squad for the tie against Rangers.
The Norway international has become one of the most sought-after players in world football due to a €75 million release clause in his Dortmund contract which becomes active this summer, and sources have told ESPN that Real Madrid lead Manchester City in the race to sign the striker.
Former Barcelona and Netherlands midfielder Van Bronckhorst, who played alongside great strikers including Thierry Henry and Ruud van Nistelrooy for club and country, said Haaland has already proved himself to be one of the world’s best forwards.
“I think he’s one of the top strikers in the world,” Van Bronckhorst told ESPN. “He is very in-demand with all the top clubs in Europe, so it looks like he will be moving in the summer.
“His quality is there for everyone to see. He’s struggling a little bit with injuries, but we also relish the thought of playing against him. A good player for Dortmund, a player who’s very strong, can make goals quite easy with the chances he has. A great player.
“You see Mbappe always as a threat in front of goal, and I think Haaland is the same, you never want him out of your sight because he will be very lethal and dangerous in front of goal.
“So yes, he’s definitely a player who can change the game, or can decide games. I think very few players are capable in doing that, but he’s definitely one of them.”
The 19-year-old made his first-team comeback against Bayer Leverkusen earlier this month, and Van Bronckhorst said it will be a special occasion to face Reyna due to a close friendship with his father, Claudio, which was forged during their playing days together at Rangers.
So close, in fact, that Gio was named after Van Bronckhorst.
“Yeah, I think it was a beautiful name,” Van Bronckhorst said. “For me it was an honour, because the moment I heard he was named after me and they said they will call him Gio, it shows the affection and love they have for me and my family and I think think that only makes our bond stronger.
“I played with Claudio for many years at Rangers, that’s where our friendship started. Both families, we have a really good bond together, and obviously I know Gio since the day he was born, so it’s special to see him develop as a person, but also develop as a player.
“I’m really happy for him, he’s now at one of the top sides in Europe, doing really well, struggling with injures the last couple of months, but he’s back now and able to play so I’m happy for him and I think for all of us, both families, a special moment to face each other.”
Van Bronckhorst goes into the game having succeeded Steven Gerrard as Rangers manager in November following his predecessor’s move to Aston Villa.
The Scottish champions have lost just twice in 18 games so far under Van Bronckhorst, including a 3-0 defeat against rivals Celtic earlier this month, and he said that it will take time for everyone to adjust to the transition from one manager to another.
“I think the progress is good,” he said. “It’s always difficult for players, but also for the manager to come in mid-season but I think the incorporation for me at the club was really well, and also the players handled it really well and we’re just on course to hopefully get some silverware this season.
“We’re in a good place now, of course we had bad moments in that spell, but that’s part of football, but the direction we had after the defeat against Celtic was really well.
“We’re in a good place at the moment, we want to keep that, and so we go to Dortmund quite confident, but also with respect to the opponent and the quality they possess, so we have to have our top game on Thursday to get a good result.
“It’s a big challenge for all of us. We’re happy to still be involved in Europe after the winter break. It also means you are going to face some good opposition, especially the teams dropping from UCL into UEL.
“So we are relishing the tie against Dortmund, and we will do everything to be as strong as possible and to try and win this tie.”
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