Liverpool’s Dominik Szoboszlai has confidently predicted his former teammates Erling Haaland and Josko Gvardiol will finish behind him this season.
Szoboszlai, who has started well at Anfield, struck up a close friendship with Haaland at RB Salzburg and last season played with City’s £77million defender Gvardiol and Chelsea’s Christopher Nkunku at Leipzig.
The busy schedule has so far prevented “Szobo” as he’s known in the Liverpool dressing-room from visiting his near-neighbour Haaland but he has a clear message when asked which of the group will finish highest in the Premier League.
‘Us’ says the Hungarian international without hesitation. ‘It’s not a joke, I am thinking it. I always think that way even if it is hard.
‘There are very good teams in the league but we are also. We have a very good coach and players. I am the type that wants to be first. I want to win everything because nobody is going to ask you how it feels to be second.
‘Clubs like City will believe they are going to win, and we are thinking the same.’
It’s rare for a young player to be so openly ambitious but Liverpool fans will love the swagger. After losing five midfielders in the window, and uncertainty over the future of Mo Salah, Szoboszlai has been a breath of fresh air.
The creative 22-year-old helped set up two goals against Bournemouth last weekend but faces an even tougher challenge at Champions League rivals Newcastle today.
Coached by his Dad, a former professional player, and then developed at what he calls the “Red Bull family” all the way to Champions League level, Szoboszlai was on holiday with friends in Croatia when Jurgen Klopp made his move.
‘My agent rang and said “OK, you have to stop enjoying and take care of yourself! You have to leave.’
In Salzburg and Leipzig, he learned to press – music to Klopp’s ears. It means he is capable of unlocking defences as a No10 but also has the work-rate to play deeper.
England players already know about him. Twice, Szoboszlai has appeared on the winning side for Hungary against the Three Lions, scoring the winning penalty in Budapest in last year’s Nations League.
There will be healthy rivalry with his former team-mates Gvardiol, Nkunku and Haaland now in England. ‘Of course they are my friends but for the 90 minutes we play against each other, they will not be,’ he says.
‘Erling scored 52 goals last season. I knew he could do that because I’d seen his quality. He is probably going to continue like that, but I am looking out for myself and my team.
‘When I speak with Erling, it’s usually about everyday stuff, not football. We know each other’s families. He is two houses next to me but it’s going to take time to find a solution to see each other! We have training, we have away matches, and he has been to Greece (for the European Super Cup).
‘I won’t care when we compete that he’s a really good friend. He won’t care either. I am out to help myself and my team-mates. If I score a last-minute goal, I am even happier.’