Haaland's half-hearted embrace of Guardiola's Man City

The Norwegian signed an agreement with the English side two weeks ago which includes an exit clause

3 min
Haaland with Borussia Dortmund

BarcelonaOne of the signings of the summer is about to become true. Erling Haaland will play for Manchester City for the next few seasons. ARA has been able to confirm that the highly-sought after Norwegian forward has signed for the Citizens two weeks ago, before the Champions League semi-final tie against Real Madrid. As journalist David Ornstein of The Athletic has reported, the Borussia Dortmund player will officially become a new member of Pep Guardiola's team before the end of this month. Despite the possibility that the official announcement might be delayed until after the end of the Premier League, where a fierce battle for the title is taking place between City and Liverpool, the transfer is expected to be announced this Friday.

Haaland, who will be 22 in July, will end up signing a long five-season contract, drawing a pre-tax salary of about €40m plus annual variables, which will make him the most highly paid player in the squad and one of the most highly paid in the English league. The player did not want to sign a long contract (Barça was informed of this), but, in exchange, he has secured an exit clause after two seasons at City for a set amount which would allow him to move to another country. His dream remains to play in the Spanish league. On the other hand, Dortmund, which spent €20m two years ago to sign the player from Salzburg, will receive €75m for the transfer. In addition, City will have to pay an estimated €70m in commissions, half of which woul go to the player's father, Alf-Inge Haaland (a former City player at the beginning of the century who also wanted his son to play in Manchester), and the late football agent Mino Raiola's company. Excluding salary, Man City will have to pay almost as much to Dortmund as to Haaland's representatives. City tried to cut the latter's payment as much as possible until the last moment.

This brings one of the market's most discussed deals to a close. Barça, who entered the fight for the striker knowing that its economic situation denied it a leading role, played its cards based on Joan Laporta's good relationship with Mino Raiola and Xavi's persuasiveness – who visited him accompanied by Jordi Cruyff – to convince the player to join Barça's project. But the financial reality of the Catalan side –high debt and lack of space to manoeuvre within financial fair play rules– and the fact that Barça finds it difficult to compete with top European clubs were key factors that led to the erosion of Laporta's discourse on signing the player.

The Barça president was initially optimistic, stating that the operation was possible – he has always wanted Halaand and even met with Raiola and the player's father a year ago. He went on to admit that it was an increasingly remote possibility and economically unfeasible option. The club's deal with CVC meant the transfer could be considered financially, yet La Liga's fair play rules meant registering a player with the kind of salary Haaland would receive was virtually impossible. The CVC deal means Barça has an additional €50m to spend on salaries, which would not be enough to sign a player who is asking for €40m a year. In addition, the club considers that the commissions are very high.

Benzema's 'favour'

Now Haaland has a destination, the other big name in the market is Kylian Mbappé. While the struggle between Real Madrid's attempts to sign him and PSG's to renew him continues (the latest reports speak of haggling over image rights), Karim Benzema's great season has also been a factor which affected Haaland's decision. City do not have a star centre forward – last season they failed to sign Harry Kane and got Grealish instead, who has a different profile – while Benzema has completed his best season since he arrived in Madrid. The arrival of Mbappé could also lead to an excess of players that would see Halaand losing protagonism. At City he knows that, in principle, this will not happen.

Thus, the market's first big movement has been completed. In the meantime, Xavi demands a centre-forward because he is not convinced either by Aubameyang nor Memphis, and Ansu's evolution remains a mystery after a year mostly off the field due to a string of injuries. In addition, the dressing room claims Ansu could alternate a centre-forward position with playing on the wing. Now that Haaland is impossible, Lewandowski is Laporta's preferred option. He has no doubts about the Polish forward's immediate performance despite his age (34 in August). The problem is to reach an agreement with Bayern, who would ask for at least €40m, and find the right salary for a player who earns €20m a year. The main alternative is Álvaro Morata. The Madrid-born player, owned by Atlético Madrid, plays on loan at Juventus and his arrival would depend on Antoine Griezmann's situation, for whom Atlético have a €40m purchase option in the summer of 2023.