Erling Haaland’s path to Man City could have been smoothed by Vincent Kompany protects – Dominic Farrell

Philippe Sandler’s departure from Manchester City is one of those pieces of transfer business destined to become a forgotten footnote.

But fans might have reason to be grateful for the Dutch defender’s slightly unexpected move back to Feyenoord in his homeland.

A few months from now, City doing Sandler a favor – namely allowing him to move on a free transfer despite the 24-year-old having been contracted to the Etihad Stadium until June – might look like a little judicious grease that was applied to the big wheel at the perfect time.

Three-and-a-half years on from his similarly low-key arrival from PEC Zwolle, Sandler is the latest example of a recruit brought in with an eye on the wider City Football Group who leaves seemingly richer for the experience.

“Many people always think you have to play matches to learn things, but I learned so much in training. I’m very happy and grateful that I was able to work with everyone there,” he told By Telegraafhaving made two senior appearances for the Blues in January 2019 cup ties against Rotherham United and Burton Albion.

He was part of the wider first-team squad as they completed a domestic treble and competed on four fronts during the second half of 2018/19 – not an insignificant feat given the importance Pep Guardiola places upon keeping training sharp throughout a packed schedule.

It is one of the reasons City frequently resist loan inquiries for standout young talents like James McAtee and Josh Wilson-Esbrand. On a day-to-day basis at the City Football Academy, such players can be invaluable in terms of keeping the established stars on their toes.

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This was an experience Sandler enjoyed.

“Guardiola expects so much from you. Even if we only do a pass and kick exercise, everything has to go well,” he added.

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“You get into a kind of trance, where you demand of yourself that every ball has to be good. He is such a lover [of football]I have rarely seen people enjoy football so much.”

The beaming youngster got to join in the end-of-season celebrations and his photo alongside Vincent Kompany with the Premier League trophy at Brighton preceded a working relationship.

Sandler followed Kompany to Anderlecht, playing on loan alongside the then player-coach and starting nine consecutive Belgian Pro League games in the early stages of the 2019/20 season.

That was as good as it got for Sandler, who sustained a knee problem that required surgery. To compound matters, a serious ankle injury decimated a 2020/21 campaign where he only featured for City’s under-23 side from April onwards.

A temporary stint at CFG club Troyes in Ligue 1 yielded two appearances before his ankle woes return and hopefully a fresh start at Feyenoord can get the player back on track.

SINSHEIM, GERMANY - JANUARY 22: Erling Haaland (R) of Dortmund is injured during the Bundesliga match between TSG Hoffenheim and Borussia Dortmund at PreZero-Arena on January 22, 2022 in Sinsheim, Germany.  (Photo by Markus Gilliar/GES-Sportfoto/Getty Images)
Erling Haaland supported Manchester City as a boy.

City have inserted their customary buy-back clause into the deal, but the most significant element of an unheralded transfer might be Sandler’s agent.

Mino Raiola would certainly have struggled to seal the Feyenoord move for his client without the Blues’ helpful gesture.

“Philippe Sandler was a free transfer and a godsend,” Feyenoord sporting director Frank Arnesen told Eindhoven Dagbald.

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There will, of course, be far greater sums of money involved when Raiola’s star client Erling Haaland makes his anticipated blockbuster move this summer.

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A duel between City and Real Madrid is increasingly anticipated, while the very presence of Raiola looks like a potential complication given his previously frosty relationship with Guardiola.

However, such details can hopefully be ironed out with such a prime talent up for grabs and this is where teeing up an enticing move for Sandler looks shrewd.

A deal-breaker with Raiola at the business end of the Haaland saga? No, of course not. But it won’t have done City’s position at the negotiating table any harm at all.

Do you think City can land Erling Haaland this summer? Follow City Is Ours editor Dom Farrell on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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