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Take the club-record fee it took Manchester United to re-sign Paul Pogba and then add an extra £38million on top. That’s the minimum amount it will take to land Erling Haaland this summer, apparently.
As Mino Raiola and Alf-Inge Haaland flew across Spain to talk to both Barcelona and Real Madrid on Thursday, transfer expert Fabrizio Romano revealed on Twitter that it will take just shy of £128m (€150m) to land the Norwegian striker in a few months’ time.
And that’s the minimum fee too. It could well swell beyond that given five major clubs – United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Real Madrid and Barcelona – are all keen.
A bidding war is entirely plausible given the demand for the 20-year-old’s otherworldly talents.
City do not spend massive amounts on single signings – preferring to spend £40m and £50m fees on multiple players – but certainly have the firepower to pay that much for Haaland.
As do Chelsea, though they will have to sell players to offset their £220m summer spend under former manager Frank Lampard last year. Fortunately for them, they have plenty to get rid of.
United, though, have warned they will not break the bank in the next market due to the ongoing financial repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have to be realistic and responsible in the way we do our business both on and off the pitch,” Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said in early March.
“We have to look at the whole picture. Where can we spend the money? And how much is there? It’s just the real world now. It has changed.”
That then means Haaland’s massive price tag is surely as much as an issue for them as it is for anyone. The cash-strapped Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barca will also need to scramble together every last penny they can find.
But the problem for United is that if they are so eager to land Haaland this time, having previously looked to reunite the ex-Molde striker and Solskjaer on more than one occasion, it creates a problem for their other summer plans.
United are also keen on signing a central defender and have been tipped to try and strengthen at right wing, at right-back and in central midfield. That, of course, will not all happen this summer, even if they don’t sign Haaland.
It is in the centre of defence, having conceded only less Premier League goals than West Ham of the top six clubs, where United most obviously need to improve their team alongside a desire to upgrade their choices at centre-forward in the long term given Edinson Cavani’s age and injury troubles. The Uruguayan is also out of contract in the summer as it stands.
Sevilla’s Jules Kounde and Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane have been mentioned as the big-ticket centre-half targets, while Villarreal’s Pau Torres, Brighton’s Ben White, Ibrahima Konate of RB Leipzig and David Carmo of Braga are cheaper but still high-quality alternatives.
None will come particularly cheap with Konate’s £34m release clause making him perhaps the lowest cost potential addition, though Liverpool are particularly keen on the Frenchman and already making moves to secure his signature.
And signing Haaland at £130m or more and trying to sign a defender of Kounde or Varane’s class, who would surely cost over £60m, is not feasible. Even Haaland and a White, at £40m or more, is tough to pull off.
Perhaps no player on that shortlist would be affordable if Haaland is brought in at the fee Dortmund want, and United may have to draft up some new more obscure targets who wouldn’t cost as much.
The only way United could fund those deals in the same summer would be, like Chelsea, by offloading several first-team players. David de Gea and Paul Pogba are the calibre of talent who could attract substantial enough fees.
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De Gea’s exit is feasible with Dean Henderson seen as the long-term No 1 at Old Trafford but United don’t want to lose midfielder Pogba, who was in brilliant form pre-injury as they threatened a title charge.
If United are as limited financially as Solskjaer has suggested they will be, they will require a raft of lucrative exits if they truly want to sign Haaland and a new defender.
Simply signing Haaland, for as potent a marksman he is having scored 49 goals in 49 games for Dortmund, would see United further close the gap on champions elect Man City – but probably not by enough to make them champions for the first time since 2013.
A tight back-line is the cornerstone of a title triumph – the team with the best or second best defensive record in the division have won the title each season since Chelsea in 2016-17.
But it is easy to see why United would prioritise the potential acquisition of a player of Haaland’s talent, with perhaps Kylian Mbappe only sharing the same sky-high ceiling as the Norway international.
Yet if United are to secure the signature of the 20-year-old, it may come at a cost to their plans elsewhere – unless they can find a bargain centre-half.
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