Erling Haaland has scored 52 goals in his first season with Manchester City, which faces Inter Milan in the Championship League final on Saturday. Dave Thompson/Associated Press

ISTANBUL, Turkey — While Erling Haaland is feeling the weight of expectations ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final, Lautaro Martinez is aiming to complete a spectacular double, six months after winning the World Cup with Argentina.

They are the players who could make the difference when Manchester City faces Inter Milan at Istanbul’s Ataturk Olimpiyat Stadium.

“Of course I feel pressure,” said Haaland, City’s prolific striker. “I would lie if I said I didn’t. You say it yourself and it’s true – they (City) won the Premier League without me, they won every trophy without me. So I’m here to try to do a thing that the club has never done before and I’ll do my best.”

Haaland’s frank admission is a measure of what is at stake in European club soccer’s biggest game.

He has appeared to have ice in his veins in his first season at City in which he has scored 52 goals, won two trophies, and is now on the brink of leading the club to its first Champions League title.

The prospect of conquering Europe, however, has been playing on his mind as the final approaches.


Martinez may not be as celebrated as Haaland, but he is one of Inter’s few stars in a team that features a number of veteran players and is an unlikely finalist.

The Italian club is in its first final since winning the competition in 2010 under Jose Mourinho, having done little in the Champions League in the intervening years.

In Martinez, it has a player who lifted soccer’s biggest prize when Argentina won the World Cup in Qatar in December.

“I think these are the two major finals a footballer can play. The only thing that changes is the shirt,” he said Friday. “You know you’ve made it to the very end thanks to all the work you’ve done and how hard you’ve worked throughout the year. If you want to really achieve that goal, the very last step you must be ready to take.”

Should Inter upset the odds and win the Champions League, Martinez would emulate another Argentine striker, Diego Militao, who was part of that team from 2010.

“I do feel responsibility. I have been at Inter for five years. We are all ready for the final,” he added. “You have got to have the will to win and lift that trophy. We’ve brought that spirit that has been missing for a while. We have the opportunity to win a trophy that has been missing for several years.”


Haaland represents the biggest threat to Inter after establishing himself as the most lethal striker in the world this season. His 36 Premier League goals set a new benchmark in England’s top division. He became the fastest and youngest player to reach 30 Champions League goals, and equaled Lionel Messi and Luiz Adriano’s feat of scoring five times in one match.

Then there have been the trophies – winning the league title and FA Cup to leave City one game away from a treble that would match Manchester United’s achievement in 1999.

“If you’d said this scenario before the season, I wouldn’t think of it,” Haaland said. “But, again, when you look at the team, how close they’ve been with every single trophy every single season, it’s not like it’s been not possible.

“We have been believing in ourselves ever since I came here. Just one game left, I don’t know what more to say.”

The Champions League is the one trophy that has been out of reach as Pep Guardiola’s team has dominated England.

It advanced to the final in 2021, only to be shocked by a Chelsea team that it finished 19 points ahead in the Premier League.

Last year, City conceded two goals in stoppage time against Real Madrid in the semifinals and lost in extra time.

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