Manchester City are ramping up their efforts to sign Borussia Dortmund goal ace Erling Haaland this summer.
Rumors that the Blues have already agreed to a personal deal with the 21-year-old Norway international are believed to be wide of the mark, but they are a live option as the player’s agent seeks to extract the best deal he can for his man.
Haaland’s agent said in December that the Blues – yet to replace goalscoring legend Sergio Aguero – are in a fight with Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona for one of world football’s hottest properties.
Bayern and Barca have since started to flag in the race, seemingly leaving City and Madrid to scrap it out – but Paris Saint-Germain have now emerged as the bookies’ favourites.
Senior figures at Bayern appear to have poured cold water on a move for the player as the speculation linking the Norway ace to City continues to grow.
When veteran Bayern star Thomas Muller was whether he would like to feed Haaland with assists, he replied asked “I prefer to feed my horses and rabbits”, which is being interpreted as backing for current star Robert Lewandowski, whose contract expires in 2023 and for whom Bayern have considered Haaland a sound replacement.
That viewpoint was backed up by Bayern chief executive Oliver Kahn who, when asked about Haaland, replied “We have Robert Lewandowski. He will also score 30 or 40 goals in a few more years.”
Barring a huge bluff from the Bundesliga champions, that would leave Madrid and City as the main protagonists in the fight for Haaland, who has a release clause of around £62million this summer, with PSG something of an unknown quantity.
Madrid were long touted as favourites, but German media have reported that sportswear giants Puma and Nike are locked in a battle to sign him up in a deal that would be worth over £40m to the player.
Nike have been Haaland’s sponsor since he first burst onto the scene, but that deal has now expired and the two big companies are both believed to be talking to the youngster’s camp to secure his signature.
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His personal boot deal would not necessarily influence his destination, but Puma are City’s kit sponsor while Nike supply PSG, and both would love to see Haaland wearing one of their shirts as well as their boots.
It has not escaped notice that PUMA boss Bjorn Gulden, also Norwegian, regularly sits with Haaland’s dad, former City star Alf-Inge Haaland, in the directors’ box at Borussia Dortmund.
German sources also claim that both Puma and Nike are offering bonuses depending on success, and in that regard City are a better bet than Madrid in the years to come
The relatively cheap release clause, which some say does not kick in until AFTER the summer transfer window closes, which would complicate matters, means that Haaland and his shrewd agent Mino Raiola are in the driving seat in terms of personal terms, wherever they go.
City can outbid Madrid and Bayern in those terms, but will be loath to break their current wage structure, as they were for Alexis Sanchez, who ended up opting for a whopping £500,000-a-week deal at United instead.
Haaland has kept his personal preference close to his chest, but the fact that he was a boyhood City fan, was spotted excitedly filming himself in the tunnel at the Etihad Stadium ahead of last season’s Champions League quarter-final clash with Dortmund, and then deep in conversation with Phil Foden afterwards, they have all fueled the notion that he would love to play for the Blues.
Raiola said in December that Bayern, Madrid, Barcelona and City are the four options, ruling out United as being title also-rans for the immediate future.
Barca are struggling to accommodate their current squad within La Liga’s salary cap, and noises coming out of Bayern suggest they are lukewarm on their chances of taking him.
So that means City and Madrid are frontrunners, although the bookies place PSG out in front, as they will need a replacement for Kylian Mbappe and have the resources to pay Haaland huge money.
City’s need for a striker is the greatest, especially as Madrid are understood to be in the box seat to sign Mbappe on a free transfer this summer.
Madrid are said to have lined up an £800,000-a-week contract for the France striker, making him the world’s best-paid player.
The Blues are being as tight-lipped as ever about their intentions, with manager Pep Guardiola firmly rebuffing any questions about possible transfers, and the executive team keeping their business firmly under wraps.
Haaland is definitely a prime target this summer, but Harry Kane is not entirely off the radar despite the failure to land him last year.
Haaland’s release clause makes him hugely attractive, as he would cost less than half of what Sputs would ask for Kane, who is seven years older.
With a staggering 149 goals in 190 appearances – including 23 in 20 for Dortmund this season – Haaland also blows Kane out of the water in terms of stats.