Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has targeted Erling Brauth Haaland as a replacement for Sergio Aguero – but there are other options if he fails to bring in the Norwegian, and that includes England captain Harry Kane.
Guardiola had long planned to bring in a new striker, which meant Aguero would likely get even less playing time than he has lately.
The end of the Argentine’s future really leaves City looking for a replacement. And regardless of who they end up signing, it will be one of the biggest contracts of the summer.
Haaland target number one
It will come as no surprise to you that 20-year-old Haland is high on Guardiola’s wish list.
The Norwegian and Borussia Dortmund striker has become Europe’s most coveted young number nine due to his huge goal tally and will be looking to add to his goal tally against City in their last Champions League match – a 16-goal game.
Only Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski has scored more than 21 times for Haland in the Bundesliga this season, while earlier this month he scored 20 goals in just 14 Champions League appearances.
But drawing Haaland is not so easy. His controversial manager, Mino Raiola, seemed to hint that the striker would be transferred this summer when, in an interview with The Athletic, he told the story of an unnamed player who, along with his parents, decided to leave his club despite interest from others.
The player then suffered two joint injuries that almost ended his career. Sometimes football is a passing train, he said. You can tell us to take the next train. But sometimes the next train doesn’t come.
However, there are reasons why a transfer in the summer of 2022 would make more sense.
Haaland’s contract at Dortmund doesn’t expire until 2024, but he has a €75m (€64m) indemnity clause that could be triggered next year. Furthermore, the financial constraints of Barcelona and Real Madrid could take away two of the most attractive potential destinations this summer.
However, should Haaland leave, Chelsea and Manchester United would want to buy him and there is no guarantee he would end up at City, even though his father Alfie played for them.
In an interview with sportswriter Dan Roan in February, Raiola said: There are only up to ten clubs that can afford to buy [Haaland] and give him the platform he wants after his time at Dortmund…. and four of those clubs are in [England].
What are the other options?
Kane has scored 160 goals in 237 Premier League appearances.
Tottenham Kane’s future is the subject of much debate.
Under Jose Mourinho, Spurs seem to be a thing of the past and at 27, the England captain doesn’t have much time left to win football’s biggest prizes.
But Tottenham play on the 25th. April in the EFL Cup final at Wembley against City, and although they enter the match as an underdog, they can at least end their 13-year wait for a major trophy.
As for Haland, Kane’s contract doesn’t expire until 2024.
Former Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku could be available again given the financial problems facing Inter Milan’s Chinese parent company Suning.
Lukaku’s teammate Lautaro Martinez has also been mentioned as a target, although he is not the number nine in the traditional sense.
City makes financial effort
Grealish has been one of the standout players in the Premier League this season.
Less than five months later, Guardiola has signed a new contract with City, which will see him stay with the Blues until 2023.
When Guardiola’s new contract was announced, City were halfway through the Premier League and the expectation was that a major rebuild would be required.
City are now 14 points clear at the top of the league table, and there is talk of an unprecedented quadrupling.
Guardiola has found a winning formula that doesn’t even need a big striker, and the strength of his team is beyond the reach of any opponent, domestically or in Europe.
But the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach has an insatiable desire for perfection. Despite the presence of Kevin de Bruyne, Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling, he is actively looking for creative options, which is why the name of Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish keeps popping up.
Some seem to have distanced themselves from the Lionel Messi connection now that Barcelona’s presidential election has brought some calm to the Nou Camp and on Wednesday Spanish newspaper Sportexternal-link reported that the matter is closed with the Argentine’s transfer to City.
But by the time Guardiola announced his contract extension, speculation was rife that the two men had met and had a plan to use Messi as part of the City Football Group later in his career.
The stories are defined, so it’s not entirely out of the question that he will continue to be part of the bigger picture.
Left-back remains a concern, although the amazing form of Joao Cancelo in a unique role that combines the defensive duties of a defender with those of a midfielder has reduced the urgency of this search, while Benjamin Mendy’s continued presence at the club is also in doubt.
Aguero at Premier League rivals?
Despite the injury problems that forced a move for him this season, Aguero believes he can still play at a high level, which is why he doesn’t want to return to Argentina just yet.
It is also understood that he is not ruling out a move to another Premier League club, however unlikely that may seem, as his legacy at City is so great that the club have already agreed to have a statue made of him.
While Barcelona are a possibility, as are Juventus, Inter and Paris St-Germain, it will be interesting to see if anything concrete comes out of talks with Chelsea and Liverpool, or even Manchester United, given the uncertainty over the future of Edinson Cavani.