Alex Keble looks at the Erling Haaland transfer odds and says it makes sense to back Chelsea to sign the Borussia Dortmund striker this summer...
"Roman Abramovich has already shown he knows how to make the most of a unique transfer window. Ever the disaster capitalist, he oversaw a huge transfer splurge last summer, hoovering up some of the best young players in Europe while the transfer market was depressed mid-pandemic. Luckily for Abramovich, Chelsea are likely to be in exactly the same position this year."
Erling Haaland didn't quite set the world alight in last night's Champions League tie against Manchester City, but taking just a 2-1 defeat back to Dortmund means there is still time for the young Norway striker to make further headlines as he angles for a move.
And with Borussia Dortmund now seven points outside the top four in the Bundesliga it seems likely Haaland will leave the club this summer to ensure he is playing Champions League football next season. What's more, Haaland - who has 21 goals in 21 Bundesliga games this season - has a £64 million release clause that goes live in the summer of 2022, meaning Dortmund need to cash in on the Norway international in the upcoming window.
It looks set to be the saga of the summer, not least because the economic situation across Europe means nobody can really afford the reported £150 million valuation Dortmund have put on the player. Haaland's price will inevitably be negotiated down over a long summer of haggling, but in a buyer's market there is a good chance the 20-year-old will be at one of Europe's super clubs in 2021/22.
Here's a look at the top five contenders for his signature.
Pep Guardiola has been difficult to read on Haaland, first suggesting it was 'impossible' for City to sign anyone for that price before later hinting that Man City may pay over £100 million for a single player. Given their usual shrewdness in the transfer market, it's plausible City Football Group will play the game over the coming weeks, making a deal with the player and finding a way to delay the transfer until the price is halved in 2022.
Then again, their hand may be forced if Haaland's body language is anything to go by; he looks fed up at Dortmund and likely to move to whichever club offers him an immediate exit. If that is to happen, then Man City should move heaven and earth to sign a striker whose value will only go up in the next few years.
Some people have suggested Haaland doesn't fit the Pep Guardiola mould, in that he is more of a penalty-box poacher and tends not to press for the team. But Guardiola has a solid history of adapting his tactics to fit a star striker - Sergio Aguero and Robert Lewandowski both improved under his tutelage - while Haaland's determination means he is likely to quickly absorb the Man City manager's methods.
City is the best destination if Haaland wants to take his game to the next level. However, the figures involved probably means Man City won't win the bidding war.
One of the only clubs likely to be able to come close to Dortmund's asking price is Real Madrid, and yet a recent Eurosport report claims the club are only feigning interest in order to drive Haaland's price up for their rivals. Regardless of whether or not that is true, it does seem more likely that Real will move for Kylian Mbappe rather than the Norwegian.
Haaland clearly fits the Real mould however, as both a future Galactico and as the focal point for Zinedine Zidane's hands-off tactical approach. Real aren't a very detailed team, instead relying on winning the 'moments' with sudden bursts of quality. Haaland's incredible movement and finishing make him a good fit for the Bernabeu.
Nevertheless, Real aren't exactly swimming in money, while they don't have a very good history working with Haaland's agent Mino Raiola. A lot would have to change for Haaland to end up in Madrid.
The new Barcelona president Joan Laporta has secured a bank loan to help with the club's debt, and while that is enough to secure their medium-term future it would be very strange if they could suddenly afford a nine-figure sum to bring Haaland to the club. What's more, his playing style really doesn't fit Barcelona - especially if Lionel Messi stays, which seems probable now things have settled in Catalonia.
Should Messi leave for Man City that would take them out of the running for Haaland, free up money at Barca, and give the Norwegian limited options to move this summer. In other words, don't back Haaland to go to Barcelona unless talk of Messi going to the Etihad starts up again.
Roman Abramovich has already shown he knows how to make the most of a unique transfer window. Ever the disaster capitalist, he oversaw a huge transfer splurge last summer, hoovering up some of the best young players in Europe while the transfer market was depressed mid-pandemic. Luckily for Abramovich, Chelsea are likely to be in exactly the same position this year.
The Premier League looks set to welcome fans back into stadiums from this summer, while in mainland Europe the situation is a little more precarious, which is likely to impact spending plans. Chelsea, then, may see a rare chance to further bolster their front line with the acquisition of Haaland. The only stumbling block is whether the player really sees them as one of the best in Europe.
Chelsea's performance in this season's Champions League could convince Haaland to move to Stamford Bridge, where alongside the likes of Kai Havertz and Timo Werner he could be part of the German revolution in west London. Chelsea are notable dark horses, and a worthy outside bet.
Manchester United's chances have dropped to a lowly 9/1 recently, reflecting the likelihood that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer won't be given major funds to spend this window. Even if he is able to sign some first-team players, United will be looking for good deals, making renewed interest in a cut-price Jadon Sancho far more likely.
In fact, there are plenty of reasons to assume Haaland won't end up at Old Trafford: Solskjaer needs to prioritise a right winger and a centre-back; the history between Alf-Inge Haaland and Roy Keane could be a potential spanner in the works; and Raiola hasn't got on well with United officials over the years.