Erling Haaland and Virgil van Dijk have always been quite polite when asked about each other.
The two superstars share a mutual respect worthy of players considered among the best in the world.
However, the rivalry between Manchester City and Liverpool could be about to change all that, as the Premier League giants prepare to do battle in the Community Shield.
Haaland is set to make his first competitive appearance for Pep Guardiola’s side following a £51million move from Borussia Dortmund earlier this summer.
After City edged past Liverpool to the Premier League title last season, the arrival of Haaland – arguably football’s most exciting young talent – is set to cement that advantage.
Van Dijk and Liverpool will have other ideas, and the showdown between the two sides in Saturday’s curtain-raiser at Leicester City’s King Power Stadium will provide an interesting assessment of who could win this summer.
Much of that could be down to the battle between Haaland and Van Dijk – and it won’t be the first time the two powerhouses have come face to face.
Haaland stunned Liverpool as a 19-year-old at RB Salzburg when he scored in a 4-3 loss to the Reds in the Champions League group stage in 2019.
However, Haaland met Van Dijk’s full force in the second leg, as the Dutchman put the Norwegian in his pocket.
Ahead of a meeting in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers for their respective nations, Haaland admitted Van Dijk was his toughest opponent.
In a press conference, when asked his opinion on Van Dijk, he replied: “I really don’t fear anyone, I think he is the best defender.
“I think a lot of other people in the room agree with me on that. He’s fast, strong and ‘bad’ smart, and there are three important things you need to have.
“I played against him twice, I said he was the best I have met. He is a good player so we have to try to play around him.
Speaking last year, Haaland doubled down on his affection for the Reds star.
He said: “You know how big he is, how strong he is and how fast he is, and also the timing is crazy.
“I don’t think I won a single duel against him because he’s a physical monster.”
But the feeling is certainly mutual. In that World Cup qualifier, Haaland got on the scoresheet and managed to break Van Dijk’s finger in the process.
The striker then said: “He came up to me and said ‘Holy shit, I think you broke my finger.’ I don’t know how it happened.”
And despite the pain, Van Dijk also became lyrical about Haaland.
“Haaland is a special striker because he is so strong,” said the Liverpool star. “He’s quick, he has all the attributes to make a defender’s life very difficult.”
As the two stars prepare to take center stage in one of modern football’s great rivalries, it could be an unstoppable force that meets an immovable object.
This usually results in fireworks – and quite frankly, we can’t wait.
Tune in to talkSPORT for LIVE commentary of Man City v Liverpool in the Community Shield from the King Power Stadium, kick off: 5.00pm BST