Rudiger Haaland KryptoniteGetty

Antonio Rudiger is Erling Haaland's kryptonite - Real Madrid's unsung hero has shown defenders everywhere how to stop Man City's goal machine

In early April, Real Madrid centre-back Antonio Rudiger was asked in a press conference about his toughest opponent. The interviewer insisted that it must surely be Erling Haaland, the Ballon d'Or contending presence who tore up the Premier League last season. Rudiger, though, brushed that notion off.

"Haaland was definitely one of the strongest, but if I could say one who was very tough, it would be Kun Aguero," he responded.

Rudiger's comments are, of course, warranted. Aguero was the razor-sharp edge of City's pre-Haaland era, a striker who scored 260 goals for the reigning Premier League champions, including 184 in the English top-flight. But Haaland, we are led to believe, is of another level. Bigger, stronger and faster than the tricky Argentine, Haaland was the striker that no one could quite figure out how to stop.

That is, until Rudiger did. The German centre-back shut the Norwegian down in the first leg of the 2023 Champions League semi-final between Madrid and City. He repeated the trick last week, too. Rudiger's comments might have been interpreted as disrespectful or unwarranted, but the proof is in his performances.

Madrid have found their Haaland killer, and if Rudiger can repeat his Santiago Bernabeu heroics on Wednesday, then Los Blancos could find themselves in the Champions League semi-finals for a fourth-straight season.

Article continues below