The Erling Haaland transfer saga has been brewing steadily since last summer, and it seems as if it will come to a head later this year when the summer transfer window opens. Borussia Dortmund’s release clause of €75m (£62.7m) for Haaland has been well documented, and considering he is one of the world’s best strikers, and only 21 years of age, it’s a price that most of the top clubs in the world will be willing to pay. Betting apps currently have Manchester City as the favourite to win the race for Haaland at odds as low as 4/11, with Real Madrid in second at 11/4. However, despite the fact Barcelona are listed at 10/1, recent quotes from manager Xavi as well as some reports suggest that they could be in the mix. Barcelona are currently 5/4 favourites to win the Europa League but they will have their sights set on bigger things next season, namely a Champions League title if they can swoop in and secure the signing of Haaland. It seems as if the Norwegian has his choice of some of the biggest clubs in the world for his next team, and in this article we look at the front runners to win his signature.
It was only months ago that Barcelona’s crippling debt was the talk of the footballing world, but in January, they let everyone know that those fears were in the past. After signing Ferran Torres from Manchester City, Barça President Joan Laporta gave every team in Europe a warning that they were ready to compete with the other big teams for the best players. He said: “We’re working to build a top team. Everything is possible if we do things well, and I’m sure we will. Top players are open to joining Barça. We’re definitely recovering our status. Everybody in the world should get ready, as we are back as big players in the market.” This would have most definitely rattled the teams queuing up to sign Haaland, as it essentially put them back in the race. Things have improved on the pitch drastically as well as off it in recent months, with the side looking completely reinvigorated under club legend Xavi, highlighted by their recent 4-0 drubbing over rivals Real Madrid in El Clasico. Reports surfaced in March that Xavi had a meeting with Haaland, and when asked about the meeting and the prospect of signing Haaland, Xavi said: “Look, it is always a good moment to sign for Barcelona. For me, this is the best club in the world. And, honestly, not a single player has said no to Barcelona since I have been here [as coach]. I try to let them know about the club and about how wonderful the city is. I transmit that it is a golden opportunity for any player and the style of play will make them a better player."
Despite the news of Barcelona being ‘back on the market’, and Xavi’s meeting, Manchester City remain as frontrunners for Haaland. Despite their wonderful performances this season, they have a clear and desperate need for a centre forward, made clear by their failed pursuit of Harry Kane last summer. Premier League fans would dread to think how they could compete with a team consisting of Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling and Haaland, and it’s easy to see why. Adding a player with the goal scoring ability of Haaland to an already free-scoring City side is a daunting prospect. Unlike Barca, there would be no worrying as to where oil-rich Man City would be able to get the finances from to fund the signing of Haaland, and they also have the sentimental sales pitch on their side. Erling’s father Alf Inge, who also acts as his agent, played for Manchester City between 2000 and 2003, and is known to have an affinity with the club. Additionally, the prospect of playing under Pep Guardiola and in the Premier League is a big pull for any player, which could make City hard to turn down for Haaland.
Unlike Xavi, Guardiola has refused to be drawn into talking about signing Haaland, but that hasn’t stopped journalists from asking. When he was pressed on it recently, Guardiola said: "Right now, listen, It’s impossible that I am going to talk about some guy who is not here. He’s a Dortmund player and we’ve an incredible run ahead of us. At the end of the season it is the transfer window and many things are going to happen. Maybe I speak about this club needing a striker for next five, six, seven years maybe once in last 12 months. I’m not going to be the guy saying we are a success or not a success because we didn’t have a striker. We have to play good and arrive with seven or eight players in the box. This is the best way to score goals.”
Real are an outside bet to sign Haaland, mostly because they seem destined to sign Kylian Mbappe this summer, and have been favourites to sign the frenchmen for well over a year. But, if Mbappe has a shock change of heart, and decides to either stay at PSG or go elsewhere, you would expect Real Madrid to aggressively pursue Haaland. There are even some reports that Florentino Perez has plans to sign both, which would form the scariest forward line in world football, with those two alongside Karim Benzema. Those reports coming out of Spain suggested that Perez was willing to match Manchester City’s offer to Haaland, which would pay him an eye-watering £500,000 a week. Arsenal midfielder and Haaland’s international teammate Martin Odegaard recently revealed that the two spoke about life at Real Madrid, saying: “We are good friends so we talk about lots of things, like when I was there. So yeah we talked about it but it's not anything special.”