Haaland to Man City: Premier League champions closing in on the star striker Guardiola craves

Erling Haaland Borussia Dortmund 2021-22Getty Images

Erling Haaland can't do anything right now without it being interpreted as a sign of which club he will join next.

A medical trip to Munich prompted reports of a meeting with Barcelona boss Xavi, while liking an Instagram post about the Santiago Bernabeu sparked talk of a move to Real Madrid.

Even eating homemade caramel while watching Manchester City increased speculation of a summer switch to the Etihad Stadium.

It's certainly not easy being one of the most sought-after strikers on the market, then – every tiny gesture comes under intense scrutiny.

The interest is understandable, of course. It's not just because Haaland is one of the most prolific players on the planet.

He's also going to become available for what looks like a bargain €75 million (£62m/$81m), with the release clause in his Borussiad Dortmund contract set to come into play this summer – even if agents fees and a signing-on bonus will make the final cost of acquiring Haaland far higher.

Nearly every elite European club has joined the race for the 21-year-old's signature but City are emerging as the frontrunner.

Madrid remain in the hunt, but they are also pursuing Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe, while Barcelona's delicate financial situation means that a move to Camp Nou remains unlikely, even if Blaugrana boss Xavi has not ruled it out just yet.

Opportunity knocks for City, then, and they have been pushing hard to make the Haaland transfer happen, with Pep Guardiola keen to add a striker with a killer instinct to his well-drilled team.

Executives are believed to have met the Norwegian's representatives recently, although the club are remaining cautious, with high-profile transfers always complicated.

A year ago, for example, they were confident that they could complete a deal for Harry Kane only for Tottenham to refuse to sell even though the England international wanted to move to Manchester.

This time around, of course, the buyout clause means the selling club will not prove a stumbling block. The only challenge is convincing Haaland that the Etihad is the right destination for him.

Although money is obviously relevant, personal preference is key, which is why the opportunity to work under a transformative coach like Guardiola is a major selling point.

The City boss has a proven track record of improving already-great players, while the prospect of winning plenty of silverware should certainly appeal to Haaland, who has won just a single DFB-Pokal with Dortmund, who were also knocked out at the group stage of this season's Champions League.

Guardiola's awkward relationship with Haaland's agent Mino Raiola is not thought to be a major issue, despite some harsh words exchanged in public between the pair in the past, particularly concerning Zlatan Ibrahimovic's time under the Catalan coach at Camp Nou.

Meanwhile, Haaland's father Alfie spent three seasons at City during his playing days, and he and Yorkshire-born Erling often attended matches throughout his childhood.

With salary demands expected to be similar to some of City's highest earners, everything would appear to be in place for a move to go through.

Signing Haaland would be a major coup and despite being very successful without a striker, the club are desperate for a natural predator to lead their attack.

Last season's Premier League title success and run to the Champions League final was achieved largely without Sergio Aguero, who was plagued by injury and illness issues, and the Argentine's subsequent exit has hardly affected them at all this term.

However, it was not Guardiola's intention to go through another season without being able to regularly call upon an orthodox centre forward.

Even after the Kane move fell through, there was interest in Cristiano Ronaldo before his return to Manchester United but it came to nothing.

Ultimately, City decided against buying an inferior striker for the sake of it, but it has left Guardiola having to come up with workarounds, even if they are proving highly effective.

“The club needs a striker, definitely. I don’t agree with [people] saying we play fantastically well without a striker just because we are winning,” Guardiola said ahead of last week's Manchester derby.

“When we are not winning, you say we need a striker, that I’m naive. 'How do these guys play without a striker?'

"The club is going to try, it hasn’t happened yet but, in the end, we adapt and never complain.

“With a striker, we play in a different way but if you don’t have one, you have to adapt with the quality that we have.

"If you don’t have one you have to play in a completely different way to United, Southampton, Liverpool, because they play another philosophy. In England, we are a little bit like an exception in that.”

City have already moved to ensure the situation won't happen again by signing Argentina international Julian Alvarez from River Plate in January, and he will join up with the squad in the summer, although he could yet go out on loan.

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However, after 80 goals in 79 appearances for Dortmund, Haaland remains the priority target and it is hoped that a decision will be made soon, with sources telling GOAL that his next move could be confirmed in the next few weeks.

After the summer-long saga involving Kane ultimately ended in frustration, an early agreement for Haaland would be such a pleasing contrast.

Even more importantly though, this slick City side with Haaland up front would be an even more intimidating force than they already are.