EPL

Guardiola rules out Man City 'special signings' as he knocks back Haaland question

By Sports Desk April 02, 2021

Pep Guardiola has warned Manchester City will not make "any special signings" before next season, which appears to close the door on a big-money move for Erling Haaland.

The City boss refused to directly discuss the in-demand Borussia Dortmund striker, who has been linked with the Premier League leaders as well as the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United.

Catalan broadcaster Esport3 reported Madrid and Barcelona are the teams that Haaland is most interested in joining, although Dortmund would want a huge transfer fee to allow the 20-year-old Norwegian to move on before the 2021-22 campaign.

There have been unconfirmed claims that Haaland has a €75million release clause that comes into effect at the end of next season, but his current market value would be substantially higher.

City will lose Sergio Aguero at the end of this season, having elected to release their record scorer, but he has been so scarcely involved recently that the Argentinian's absence may not be sorely felt.

"I understand completely the situation of the club, and of all the other clubs bar a few. We are not going to do any special signings," Guardiola said in a news conference.

"I'm always honest. If you ask me now, it's not going to happen. All the clubs are struggling a lot and we are not an exception."

The COVID-19 crisis has seen clubs suffer major reductions in their anticipated income, with stadiums staying largely closed over the past year, meaning matchday income has been lost.

Barca and Madrid have also been majorly affected, yet both may find a way to propose a move for Haaland.

Former Barca boss Guardiola could lead City to a spectacular quadruple this season – they face Leicester City in the Premier League on Saturday, heading into the weekend with a 14-point lead at the summit. Leicester sit third, a point behind second-placed United.

The continuing success of his City team, who remain in the Champions League and could land a domestic cup double, means Spanish manager Guardiola does not feel inclined to ask the owners to fund a spectacular transfer coup.

City have also been linked with Barca great Lionel Messi, but Guardiola's tone suggests that may be another non-starter.

Although Messi might be available on a free transfer, his wages far outstrip those of any Premier League player. Such a move would involve jaw-dropping figures.

"You know my opinion – we never spend big money on one player," Guardiola said. "We have spent a lot of money on a lot of players, but none of them for incredible figures, and that is what we will continue to do in the coming years."

Asked directly about Haaland, and whether he accepted the striker would not be with City next season, Guardiola said: "You understand that I cannot talk about players from other clubs.

"It will not be polite for Borussia Dortmund or for Haaland. It is not my business. The players I have here deserve respect from their manager not to talk about other players when we have two important months ahead.

"If I was a player and the manager was talking about other players, I'd say 'what the f*** are you doing?'. We are here to do what we have to do. In five years here I have not talked about a player from another club."

Guardiola said releasing Aguero at the end of his contract "was the best decision for the club", albeit that meant there had to be a "difficult" conversation.

The City boss added: "He will help us until the end of the season."

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    Barca left the Spanish capital emptyhanded after Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos guided defending champions Madrid to a 2-1 win on Saturday.

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    Seven not heaven for Messi

    Lionel Messi had seven attempts on goal, including when he hit the post with an audacious effort directly from a corner towards the end of the first half.

    No Barcelona player had more shots, but Messi could not find a way through in what could potentially be his final tangle with Madrid in this famous fixture.

    The six-time Ballon d'Or winner has now gone seven Clasicos in all competitions without scoring – the longest drought of his career against Los Blancos.

    Simply the Benz

    At the head of Madrid's attack, Karim Benzema simply cannot stop scoring, irrespective of the opponents.

    His sensational backheel flick to convert Lucas Vazquez's 13th-minute cross was a finish that is sure to be cherished for years to come.

    Benzema has now scored in his past seven LaLiga games, netting nine times overall during this period.

    The Frenchman is the fourth Madrid player in the 21st century to have scored in seven consecutive top-flight outings after Ruud van Nistelrooy, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.

    Kroos ends dead ball torpor

    From Ronaldo to David Beckham, Madrid have rarely been shy of free-kick specialists.

    It comes as a surprise, therefore, that Toni Kroos' strike on Saturday made him the first player in white to score a direct free-kick in El Clasico this century.

    Sure, it deflected off Sergino Dest and bounced off Jordi Alba's head on the goal line, but they all count. Right, Toni?

    Mignueza opens his account

    Oscar Mingueza endured a torrid first half as Vinicius Junior ran him ragged, but the Barcelona defender bounced back after the break.

    Mingueza appeared in the Madrid penalty area to convert when substitute Antoine Griezmann dummied Alba's cross.

    The previous Barca defender to score on his first appearance in El Clasico was Marc Bartra in the 2014 Copa de Rey final.

    Ref on Casemiro's case

    Mingueza was also involved in another key moment, when Casemiro fouled him outside the Madrid box in the final minute of normal time.

    That earned the combative Brazilian his second booking and only the second sending off of his Madrid career.

    During this time, Casemiro has committed 478 fouls in all competitions. All in all, not a bad ratio.

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