Ole Gunnar Solskjaer vowed Manchester United will conduct their transfer business in "the right way" as he refused to discuss a possible move for Erling Haaland.

Borussia Dortmund striker Haaland is a player coveted by a host of European giants, with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City thought to have looked at the 20-year-old Norway international.

His father, former Leeds United and Manchester City player Alf-Inge Haaland, and agent Mino Raiola arrived in Spain on Thursday and reportedly headed for talks with new Barcelona president Joan Laporta.

There were also claims that Haaland senior and Raiola held discussions with senior Real Madrid officials on the same day. Dortmund director Michael Zorc said the Bundesliga club had "made our intentions very clear" to Raiola, which was generally taken to mean that Haaland will not be allowed to leave on the cheap this year, if at all.

Solskjaer would surely love to bring compatriot Haaland to United, having previously coached him at Molde, but he is not prepared to allow such club business to carry on in the public eye.

"There's only so many places that a player can go to and for us, we want to focus on the ones who are here," Solskjaer said. "I've worked with Erling, but it's not right for me to talk about him. I can talk about him as an ex-coach of his, but he will make his own mind up.

"Who we're in for and who we will go for, I'm not going to comment on that."

Since leaving Salzburg to join Dortmund in mid-season during the 2019-20 campaign, Haaland has scored 49 goals in 49 games across all competitions at club level, including 33 in 31 appearances this term.

Only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (67) and Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo (55) have scored more club goals among players from Europe's top five leagues during the same 15-month period.

Among players with at least 25 goals in that time, only one has beaten Haaland's big chance conversion rate of 62.5 per cent.

Opta defines a big chance as "where a player should reasonably be expected to score", and the player who has bettered Haaland's rate is already at United, with Bruno Fernandes finishing 69.44 per cent of such opportunities.

Solskjaer hinted United could announce some surprise signings, given the way he prefers the club to operate.

He said: "I think the way the world works at the moment, you'd like to do all your business on the quiet. But there's platforms everywhere, the media makes that more difficult. But hopefully we can see soon with players that no one has written about. We conduct our recruitment business, scouting and the players we're interested in, we do it the right way."

United face Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League on Sunday, and Solskjaer's choice of goalkeeper will come under scrutiny, with Dean Henderson and David de Gea battling to be the established number one.

Given Henderson is now an England squad member, sitting on the bench is not ideal for the 24-year-old's development, yet De Gea has been a near fixture in the United team for a decade.

"I understand the question and the narrative in the media," Solskjaer said. "Where there can be potential tension or controversy, that's where everyone wants to hear a comment from me.

"What I can say is what I've said so many times, that I've got great options playing the two of them. Top keepers but of course both want to play as much as possible. That will be decided on merit. We'll have to see who we think is going to give us a win on any given day."

De Gea has seen more action for United this season, playing 2,565 minutes across all competitions to Henderson's 1,695 minutes. But it is Henderson who has clearly the better save percentage, with a 79.03 per cent success rate compared to 65.09 per cent achieved by De Gea.

"They both know we value them highly," Solskjaer said. "It's a difficult decision to leave one of them out."

Whether one of the goalkeepers leaves in the next transfer window is one of a number of matters for Solskjaer to consider.

The former Cardiff City manager, whose side sit second in the Premier League heading into the weekend, says United have a strong sense of how their ins and outs will transpire in the close season.

"Of course, we have a plan ahead. It's a plan that we think is going to happen," he said.

"There are obviously a couple of players where their future is not decided yet. Some without contracts, some with contracts and we do have a certain picture of how we think the squad is going to look in August."

Thomas Tuchel accepted there is a "race" for Erling Haaland and talked up the "world-class" talents of Sergio Aguero but was reticent to talk about Chelsea's reported interest in the star duo.

Borussia Dortmund striker Haaland is a man in demand in the close-season transfer window, with his father Alf Inge and representative Mino Raiola said to have met with both Barcelona and Real Madrid this week.

Talks are also said to be taking place with the Blues, Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United, with Haaland – who has 49 goals in as many games for Dortmund – seemingly set for a new venture.

Chelsea boss Tuchel was asked about their own pursuit at a pre-match conference for Chelsea's Premier League clash against West Brom this weekend.

"I will not answer that out of respect for the player and Borussia Dortmund," Tuchel said. 

"There is big news around him and his agent. It seems like they are creating a race for the player and I will fully accept he is a player for Borussia Dortmund, a promising player of course.

"But he isn't our player and is not in our squad. So, we will not comment on anything else regarding Haaland."

A new striker is thought to be high on Chelsea's list of priorities and City legend Aguero has also been linked with a switch to Stamford Bridge.

Aguero will depart the Etihad Stadium at the end of the campaign, after a decade of service during which time he has become the club's all-time leading scorer.

"You can ask but it's the same answer as Haaland. We have full respect for Manchester City and Sergio Aguero, who is a big player for them," Tuchel added.

"There is no words needed for me about the achievements of this guy, he is a world-class player.

"But we have three competitions in which we are in with Manchester City so I will not speak about their player."

Chelsea's links to strikers comes amid a poor run of goalscoring form from Timo Werner, a big-money recruit from RB Leipzig.

Werner has just five Premier League goals this term, while he has not scored since the 2-0 win over Newcastle United on February 15.

His woes were highlighted by a poor miss in Germany's shock 2-1 defeat to North Macedonia this week but Tuchel insists Werner is still contributing to the Blues' cause.

"It was a bad pass from Ilkay Gundogan is how I see it! I'm only joking. He missed that chance and everybody is passionate to talk about it, which is a bit annoying," Tuchel said.

"It's easy at the moment to point the finger at Timo, which I can't understand. I am happy he is back here.

"To look at it honestly, he is in a moment where he lacks confidence and things aren't too easy. The goals are not working out as usual but he works out for us.

"He still scores for us, still assists for us, still wins penalties. If this is the most critical point of his career you can say it's still pretty impressive so far.

"Timo has scored since he was five years old and he never stopped. So he can trust his brain and body, it will come back. That's easier said than done.

"Yesterday I sent him in from training because he wanted to do extra finishing with us. But I sent him in because it will come. The goals will come.

"Of course, he needs to do something and the best thing to do is to work hard. Work hard against the ball, make runs, don't hesitate, be fearless, don't overthink it.

"That's easy for me to say but it's the challenge right now. Timo will start tomorrow and there we go."

While Werner will be involved, influential midfielder N'Golo Kante is out after injuring his hamstring while away with France.

Tuchel also expects Kante to sit out Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final first-leg tie against Porto, in which they are the designated away side for a match taking place in Seville.

"Yes, probably [he will miss Porto]," Tuchel said. "He is doing individual training. He can't be with the squad.

"Then we have just three days to prepare. We have a muscle injury, as we communicated with the national team. So my realistic approach is to think about Porto, maybe the second game against Porto."

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane is tired of discussing a possible move for Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland and says he is only thinking about the players in his squad.

Madrid are one of a number of elite clubs to have been linked with the Norway international following a goal-laden 15 months at Dortmund, where he has scored 49 goals in the same number of appearances.

Talk of a transfer to the Santiago Bernabeu at the end of the season intensified on Thursday as Haaland's agent Mino Raiola and father Alf-Inge were spotted in the Spanish capital, hours after footage emerged of the pair in Barcelona.

It was reported that Raiola and Alf-Inge were on their way to hold talks with Los Blancos president Florentino Perez over a deal for Haaland, whose reported €75million release clause is not said to come into effect until 2022.

However, Zidane was unwilling to discuss Madrid's apparent interest in the 20-year-old at Friday's news conference previewing a game against Eibar.

"I'm going to be very clear here. I'm very tired of saying the same thing over and over again," he said. "Everything that happens outside of my power, I'm not going to say it's good or bad. 

"I'm not going to give an opinion on this. What matters to me is my players and tomorrow's game. I'm getting tired of saying this, but if you and your colleagues keep asking this about other players, I'm going to keep saying the same thing. 

"I say all of this because, in the end, it's true; my job, my work is what I do with my players, how I work with my players in the day by day, and focusing on every game that comes in our path. Apart from all of that, I don't know.

"I only think about tomorrow's game. After that... again, you ask this and I say the same thing. We just focus on tomorrow."

Haaland has 21 goals in as many Bundesliga games this term, adding another 10 from six matches in the Champions League, a competition in which he tops the scoring charts.

The January 2020 signing from Salzburg netted twice in BVB's most recent outing, a 2-2 draw at Cologne, to take him to 14 away goals in the German top flight in 2020-21.

That is more than Werder Bremen (13), Hertha Berlin (13), Mainz (11), Arminia Bielefeld (10) and Schalke (eight) have scored as a team at home this season.

Asked for his opinion on Perez meeting with potential transfer targets, Zidane said: "Everyone can do what they want here. I don't have any feelings about this. 

"They can do whatever is at their convenience. I repeat again: my job is preparing my players, my staff around me here, everyone at this club around me, for this game, and that is all."

Zidane will be looking to maintain his unbeaten LaLiga record against Eibar on Saturday, winning eight and drawing one of their previous meetings.

Erling Haaland's agent Mino Raiola was pictured arriving in Barcelona on Thursday, but Borussia Dortmund director Michael Zorc insisted the club have "made our intentions clear" over the striker's future amid ongoing links with the LaLiga giants.

Barca are one of a number of elite teams to have been linked with the Norway international following a goal-laden 15-month spell with Dortmund that has seen him score 49 goals in 49 appearances.

Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Manchester United have also showed a reported interest in Haaland, who is believed to have a €75million release clause in his contract that comes into effect from 2022.

But talk of a move to Camp Nou at the end of this season intensified on Thursday after Spanish outlet Sport published a video showing Raiola and Haaland's father, Alf-Inge, emerging from an airport and being driven away in a private car.

It was reported that the driver is a member of Joan Laporta's staff, suggesting Raiola and Haaland senior were on the way to a meeting with the recently elected Barca president.

However, when questioned about the alleged meeting, Dortmund chief Zorc said he is "relaxed" about the 20-year-old's future and joked his entourage may have jetted to Catalonia for another reason entirely.

"I spoke to Mino Raiola yesterday. We've made our intentions very clear," he told Sport1

"There's no problem if Alfie and Mino want to sunbath on the Mediterranean Sea. I am relaxed because I know what we want!"

Speaking last week, Raiola suggested he was too cautious when moving star client Haaland from Salzburg to Dortmund in January 2020 and hinted the in-demand striker may seek pastures new in the next window.

Haaland has scored 21 goals in as many Bundesliga games this term, adding another 10 from six games in the Champions League, a competition in which he tops the scoring charts.

Erling Haaland was back at the centre of Barcelona transfer speculation as his agent and father were pictured arriving in the Spanish city on Thursday.

The Spanish newspaper Sport published video on its website that showed agent Mino Raiola and Alf-Inge Haaland emerging from an airport and being driven away in a private car.

It was reported that the driver was a member of Barcelona president Joan Laporta's staff, pointing to Raiola and Haaland senior being on the way to a meeting with the newly elected Camp Nou chief.

Haaland has been long linked with a move to Barcelona, having dazzled in 15 months with Borussia Dortmund and emerged as a target for elite clubs across Europe.

Among those reported to have shown interest in the Norwegian are Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Manchester United, suggesting Barca may face a major battle to secure the 20-year-old, should he become available later this year.

Haaland is reputed to have a clause in his Dortmund contract that would allow him to leave for €75million at the end of the 2021-22 campaign, although this has never been confirmed by club officials.

His value even in a slightly deflated market is significantly higher than that at present, which may mean a departure at the end of this season suits all parties if there is no prospect of Haaland having a long-term stay in Dortmund.

Barcelona have been hit hard in economic terms by the COVID-19 crisis, but president Laporta will want to make his mark after returning to office last month, 11 years after his first stint in charge ended.

For Haaland to join Madrid would be a huge blow to Barca at a time when there is uncertainty over Lionel Messi's future. Blaugrana captain Messi is due to reach the end of his contract at the end of this season and has been repeatedly linked with PSG.

The club's record goalscorer may see the arrival of an exciting figure such as Haaland as an incentive to stay in Catalonia and a sign of Barcelona's ambition.

Since leaving Salzburg to join Dortmund in mid-season during the 2019-20 campaign, Haaland has scored 49 goals in 49 games across all competitions at club level, including 33 in 31 appearances this term.

It's June 25, 2020. Thousands of Liverpool fans have ignored government advice as they gather at Anfield for a very special occasion – the celebration of a first league title in 30 years.

Despite it looking a certainty for months, many Reds fans hadn't allowed themselves to be drawn in by the hysteria too early for fear of more heartache, but Chelsea's 2-1 win over Manchester City in London meant they had to wait no longer.

In the period between their two most recent top-flight titles – the last one coming even before the establishment of the Premier League – bitter rivals Manchester United lifted the trophy no fewer than 13 times.

But the title win was made even more significant by the manner of it, their dominance leaving everyone else well behind in the dust. Clinching the trophy with seven games to spare was a new record.

As fans clambered over the gates outside the Kop End and set off fireworks near the stadium, many – supporter or not – will have looked at those scenes and felt it was an image the rest would have to get used to, such had been Liverpool's consistency over the previous two years.

Yet, here we are in April 2021, approaching the Premier League's final straight with the defending champions looking hard-pressed to even finish in the top four.

A foreshadowing?

When Jurgen Klopp announced his decision to leave Borussia Dortmund in 2015, there was an initial sense of shock that was soon offset by the feeling it was perhaps to be expected. It was a testing season, and although a late upturn after the announcement saw them qualify for Europe, there was no getting away from the fact they had under-achieved.

While it was certainly not the only problem, one major issue for Klopp that season was injuries – at the time, it was estimated Dortmund's first-team players missed over 1,600 days due to injuries or illness.

As a base for comparison, Sky Sports claimed in early March that Liverpool players had lost just over 1,000 days to illness or injury this term. Granted, such data is difficult to nail down because exact timeframes aren't always confirmed by the clubs, however it does at least highlight a similarity.

Of course, another key component with regards to 2014-15 at Dortmund was the fact they lost Robert Lewandowski to Bayern Munich. Not only did he score 20 Bundesliga goals the previous season, the Poland striker helped knit their play together in the final third. Without him, so much changed in their attack.

Four Dortmund players scored nine or more Bundesliga goals in 2013-14, but only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – tasked with stepping up in Lewandowski's absence – managed this in 2014-15. Even then, his haul of 16 was only a personal improvement of three.

With key players frequently missing and new arrivals, such as Ciro Immobile, struggling to fit in, it's perhaps no wonder Dortmund's conversion rate dropped from 13 per cent to 8.3 – the only occasion it went below 11 per cent for Klopp at the club.

A common theory for his demise at Dortmund was the idea that Klopp had run the team into the ground after several years of playing high-intensity football, which subsequently led to more muscular injuries.

Dortmund engaged in 14.4 pressed sequences – defined as instances where the opponent has three or fewer passes in a sequence and it ends within 40 metres of their own goal – per game in each of Klopp's final two seasons, but his Liverpool side this term averages 18.9 each match, up slightly from 18 in 2019-20. This highlights the quality of the Reds' pressing style, but it also shows a significant increase in intensity even from his Dortmund days.

Although the correlation is difficult to prove conclusively, links between high-intensity football styles and muscle injuries are nothing new. If this was partly to blame for Dortmund's increased absences list, then Liverpool's situation – given their even greater intensity – appears comparable.

But while it's impossible to ignore Liverpool's injury situation, to suggest that's where their issues end would seemingly be false.

Below the usual standards

Of course, as Klopp has pointed out before, unplanned absences can have significant knock-on effects throughout the team.

So, the fact Virgil van Dijk has been out since October won't have just impacted Liverpool's defensive solidity, but it will have changed how they play out from the back and subsequently affected the midfield because the likes of Jordan Henderson and Fabinho have had to fill in away from their usual roles.

However, where Liverpool seem to have had the most issues in 2020-21 compared to last season is actually in attack, with their goals-per-game average decreasing from 2.2 to 1.65.

Having converted 14.4 per cent of their shots in 2019-20, they are now netting at a rate of 11.1 percent – only in Klopp's first season at Anfield have the Reds recorded worse in a full campaign (10.8).

It's not as if Liverpool are having significantly fewer shots either, as they are averaging 15 every 90 minutes as opposed to 15.5 last term, however, some potential explainers do appear when you look a little closer at those shots.

Liverpool are trying their luck from outside the box more often (5.1 per game, up from 4.6) and getting fewer away inside the area than before (9.9, down from 11). On top of this, they have had just nine (0.31 per game) shots from fast breaks in 2020-21, less than half as often as either 2019-20 (0.73) and 2018-19 (0.63).

This all suggests the opposition is sitting deeper against Liverpool than before, restricting space better and limiting the options of Klopp's men in attack – the fact they're having more long-range attempts could be a sign of collective frustration, or a lack of invention.

Supporting the idea teams are sitting off Liverpool a little more is the fact they are averaging 191.7 passes in the final third each game. This figure was 180.9 in 2019-20 and 173.8 the year before – opponents are seemingly happier to absorb pressure, more confident that Klopp's side are unable to break them down.

This potentially goes some way to explaining why Sadio Mane has had a less fruitful season in front of goal, as his xG maps for this term and last show he's not having as much of an impact in the six-yard box.

He has only scored one Premier League goal in this part of the area during 2020-21, whereas last season he scored four, suggesting he possessed something of a poacher's instinct as well as a knack for the spectacular.

While his haul of seven goals is by no means dreadful, it's 3.3 lower than his xG value, showing he's missing good-quality chances on a more regular basis than he'd be expected. By comparison, in 2020-21 he overperformed his xG by 4.3 (18 goals, 13.7 xG) and the year before he boasted a 6.9 xG differential (22 goals, 15.1 xG).

This means that, while he was living up to his abilities as an elite-level chance-taker for the past two years, this term he appears to be struggling to adapt to his surroundings, with defences packed a little tighter.

With Mohamed Salah, however, there's been a slight change in the other direction in that his non-penalty xG of nine is actually less than the 11 non-penalty goals he's scored – in 2019-20 he had a negative 0.8 xG differential (16 goals, 16.8 xG).

As such, Salah appears to be handling the changes better than Mane despite opposition setups also causing him to think differently about his shots. Again, xG maps show the Egyptian isn't able to get as many high-xG shots off from the centre of the area, instead being forced slightly more towards the right, yet he's still netting with fine frequency.

Working smarter to restore pride

Whether Salah's outperforming of xG is sustainable or not is another matter, and one only time can tell, though Liverpool will likely need even more from him to prevent their season finishing with a whimper.

Similarly, Mane rediscovering his best form would be a major boost, and that appears to hinge on him dealing better with less space or getting on the end of more deliveries into the danger zone.

Liverpool's lengthy injury list has undoubtedly had some impact in 2020-21, yet it also seems clear they could work smarter in light of opponents approaching their fixtures slightly differently.

Upcoming games against Arsenal and Real Madrid could potentially provide the tonic given neither is likely to set up particularly defensively, and this might play into the hands of Mane.

A make-or-break week is on the horizon – defeat to the Gunners could leave the Reds eight points adrift of fourth, while losing in Madrid will likely ruin their Champions League hopes.

As people clamour to proclaim Liverpool the worst Premier League champions ever, it's time to restore a little dignity.

Lionel Messi has been tipped to leave Barcelona for either Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain.

Barca have also been linked with Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland.

But Haaland could reportedly unlock Messi's future.

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND TO CITY MEANS BARCA STAY FOR MESSI?

Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland could hold the key to Lionel Messi's future at Barcelona, according to the front page of Thursday's Diario AS.

Haaland is a player in demand, linked with Barca, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

City have been tipped to sign Messi, but should they step up their pursuit of Haaland, the Premier League leaders could reportedly drop their interest in the Barca captain.

 

ROUND-UP

- Mundo Deportivo says new Barca president Joan Laporta is preparing a contract renewal for Messi, who is set to become a free agent at season's end.

- Bayern Munich are eyeing a move for Tottenham star Son Heung-min, claims Football Insider. Son has reportedly been offered a bumper new contract by Spurs, but the former Bayer Leverkusen forward is wanted in Munich.

- Sporting CP's Joao Palhinha, Borussia Monchengladbach star Denis Zakaria and Sander Berge of Sheffield United are on the list of midfielders to replace City veteran Fernandinho, reports A Bola.

- Gazzetta dello Sport says Juventus and Barca are interested in Milan captain Alessio Romagnoli. The Italy defender is out of contract in 2022 and is reportedly seeking a €6million-a-year contract.

Napoli are eyeing Lazio head coach Simone Inzaghi and sporting director Igli Tare, claims Radio Kiss Kiss Napoli. Gennaro Gattuso has been tipped to leave Napoli at the end of the season, with ex-Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri, Luciano Spalletti and Hellas Verona's Ivan Juric among the possible replacements. But Lazio duo Inzaghi and Tare are being monitored to replace Gattuso and Cristiano Giuntoli in Naples.

United are interested in Lille defender Sven Botman, according to Fabrizio Romano. Sevilla star Jules Kounde has been on United's radar but the club's asking price of €80m (£68m) is too steep.

- Romano also says there is no agreement with United and Paul Pogba over a new contract. Pogba has been linked with former club Juve, Madrid and PSG.

Joachim Low insisted it was not the right time to discuss possible recalls for Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels in the aftermath of Germany's shock 2-1 loss to North Macedonia.

Eljif Elmas scored late on in Duisburg - Ilkay Gundogan having earlier cancelled out Goran Pandev's opener from the penalty spot - to inflict a first World Cup qualifying defeat on Germany since September 2001 - a run spanning 35 matches.

The defeat leaves Die Mannschaft third in Group J, level on points with North Macedonia and three points behind pacesetters Armenia, who have won all three matches so far.

Speaking to RTL after the game, Bayern Munich honorary president Uli Hoeness suggested Low - who has announced he will end his tenure as head coach after Euro 2020 - should bring Muller and Hummels back into the national team.

The duo, as well as Bayern defender Jerome Boateng, have not played for their country since November 2018, but Low recently hinted each player remains in his plans for this year's tournament.

"Hummels is a player with strong aerial ability and someone who has a lot of experience," Hoeness said. "He can definitely give this team something.

"Muller also definitely belongs in the squad. He's always good for goals and can help any team in the world in certain situations."

But when asked again about those absent players after the North Macedonia game, Low told RTL: "This question cannot be answered now. The decision will be made in May. It is something to think about in the next few days and weeks."

The defeat for Germany was just their third ever in World Cup qualifying and leaves them with work to do when they resume their campaign in September.

There may well have been a different outcome on Wednesday had Timo Werner made more of a glorious chance that fell his way five minutes before Elmas' winner, the substitute forward dragging wide in a one-on-on opportunity.

"He has to score that, no question about it," Low said of Werner's late miss, coming from the Chelsea attacker's only touch of the ball in the opposition penalty area.

"He doesn't hit the ball properly, otherwise it's a goal. Timo blames himself the most. That was a bad moment in a period in which we were on top in the game."

Low had previously criticised his players for their profligacy in the 1-0 win over Romania on Sunday, which followed on from a 3-0 victory at home to Iceland.

Germany had 11 shots against North Macedonia but tested visiting goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski with just two of those, with Serge Gnabry - the match-winner against Romania last time out - wasting two chances of his own in the first half.

"There is no magic formula," Low said. "You can train all you want, but it is difference in a competitive match. We were too hesitant to finish.

"We weren't consistent. With the score at 1-1, Timo had that huge chance. We have to look back at the chances and talk about it."

Gundogan had drawn Germany on level terms but his side were caught out at the back for a second time for the winning goal.

"The fact is, that should not be happening," Gundogan said. "It felt like they were in front of our goal twice and scored twice - it was too easy for them.

"We had many chances and only scored one goal. We didn't defend well with either goal - twice they had a man in the middle completely free.

"I leave with a bad feeling. It hurts all the more that we won't play again for three months. We have to get in top form by the end of May and prepare for the Euros."

Manchester City need a top number nine like Erling Haaland if they are to compete with the best teams in Europe, according to Shaun Wright-Phillips.

City and Sergio Aguero announced this week that the star striker will be leaving the club after 10 years when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Pep Guardiola's team are among many of the continent's leading sides who have been linked with a transfer pursuit of Borussia Dortmund sensation Haaland.

Aguero has only made five City starts in all competitions this season due to injuries, so they have often deployed a false nine rather than a recognised striker like the Argentina forward or Gabriel Jesus.

Wright-Phillips – who had two spells with City totalling nine seasons – has been impressed by how City have adapted but feels a focal point is still needed in the biggest matches.

"They have to look for a direct replacement," Wright-Phillips told Stats Perform News.

"If you're going to have big team like that without a so-called number nine, it would be strange to a lot of people in the world. 

"You can play with a false nine against a lot of teams, but say you're playing Real Madrid – Sergio Ramos, he'll be happy not to have striker in front of him. 

"Then he can see everything, so there's certain teams in the world that know how to deal with that pretty easily. 

"To have a number nine up there, it gives them a headache, something to think about. And they have to be on their A-game all the time as well."

Haaland is the striker who stands out as the best pick to Wright-Phillips, with Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku among the others forwards to have been linked with City.

The 20-year-old has scored 21 goals in as many Bundesliga games this season and tops the Champions League scoring charts with 10 from six outings.

"For me if you are talking about going for someone, I think I would say Haaland," added Wright-Phillips.

"Not only obviously because of how well he's doing but because of his age as well. They've got him for a good 10 years if they choose to keep him or if he does well. 

"That would suit the City team better, in the respect that most of their players are under 27 or 28, apart from maybe Kevin De Bruyne. 

"There would be nothing wrong with the Haaland decision.

"People say the wages and stuff like that – everyone can see in football what can happen, which is pretty much anything, so I don't put any of that past them. 

"It could be any one of those strikers [Kane, Lukaku, Haaland] – City are going to create chances and you have seen their goalscoring records, they're going to take them the majority of the time."

Manchester City will turn to Harry Kane if they cannot land Erling Haaland.

It is widely expected City will go hard to sign the Norway striker, who is being pursued by numerous big clubs.

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Chelsea are all interested in the Borussia Dortmund man.

 

TOP STORY - KANE IN CITY'S SIGHTS

The Times reports that if City fail to win the race for Haaland's signature they will consider making an offer for Tottenham talisman Kane.

Kane is seven years older than Haaland but has a proven Premier League goal scoring record.

City have already confirmed Sergio Aguero's exit at the end of the season and are in the market to bolster their forward ranks.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail is reporting that City's main priorities in the transfer market are to sign Haaland and Aston Villa playmaker Jack Grealish, as they turn to a younger generation of talent. The duo are expected to cost £200 million.

- Football Insider has reported Lionel Messi has requested FC Barcelona sign countryman Aguero as part of his own negotiations to stay with the Catalans. Mundo Deportivo claims Aguero is not a priority signing for Barca, with Memphis Depay, Romelu Lukaku and Haaland top of the list.

- Gianluigi Donnarumma has been linked with a host of big clubs and Sky Sport Italia are reporting that contract talks with AC Milan are at a standstill. Milan are allegedly offering €7million per-year deal but the goalkeeper wants more.

- Voetbalkrant are reporting Southampton are interested in Anderlecht's teenage defender Marco Kana.

- Ex-Borussia Dortmund and Hertha Berlin coach Lucien Favre is interested in becoming Celtic's new coach, according to the Daily Mail.

- Fichajes reports Leeds United's Rodrigo is unhappy in England and wants to return to Spain, with Real Betis and Sevilla in the mix.

Erling Haaland would provide "long-term value" for Manchester City even if the club have to splash the cash to sign him as a replacement for Sergio Aguero, says Richard Dunne.

City and Aguero confirmed on Monday that the Argentina striker will be leaving when his contract expires at the end of the season.

A glittering 10-year stint at City after signing from Atletico Madrid has seen him become the club's record goalscorer with 257 strikes to his name.

City were already being linked with Borussia Dortmund sensation Haaland before the Aguero announcement.

Haaland has been prolific since signing for Dortmund in January 2020 and reportedly has a €180million asking price with all of Europe's top clubs likely to pursue him in the transfer market.

Even though Haaland would be an expensive addition, Dunne – who was a City stalwart between 2000 and 2009 - thinks it is a move worth making.

"If you are looking for a number nine, someone who is going to get you goals and is going to be long-term value for money, I think Haaland is the one," Dunne said to Stats Perform News.

"He is still very young, he is obviously proven in his first club [Salzburg], and he has moved on to Dortmund.

"He has been amazing and has scored goals in the Champions League. He looks like a good bet in terms of who is going to be able to do it long term. 

"He's 21 this year, he's got plenty of years ahead of him. For me he seems the most exciting [potential Aguero replacement].

"It would be great to see him in the Premier League. You can see him fitting into that Man City team where his job is basically stand in the middle of the box and score goals. 

"City create so many chances and hopefully he'll be able to get the opportunity to score a handful." 

Dunne believes the upcoming Champions League quarter-final tie between Dortmund and City gives Haaland an opportunity to make a statement to Pep Guardiola, even though the Premier League side will already know everything about him.

He continued: "It is not so much an audition - Man City, there's a documentary on their scouting network and how they go about their things. 

"It's never about one game, they're going to know everything about Haaland if he signs. Same on any other striker. 

"But the opportunity to go and prove yourself, and show your potential new club, potential new manager what you can do, I'm sure for Haaland he'll feel like it's a great stage for him to go make a statement. 

"It's great that he scores goals in the Champions League, he's done it. I think the next objective is to score goals against big teams in later rounds of the Champions League. 

"This is a huge opportunity for him, and I'm sure Man City will have done their homework. They'll be praying to god that it's one of those nights that he doesn't have a good one and they can keep him quiet."

If City do not go down the route of a big-name signing, Dunne believes they are well prepared based on this season to get results without an established number nine, even if that is not an ideal scenario.

He expects to see enhanced roles for Gabriel Jesus and youngster Liam Delap in the future.

"I think Manchester City have sort of come up with a system that works for them without Aguero," said Dunne. 

"If Aguero was fit and available all the time, I'm sure he would have played, and Guardiola would have liked to have that number nine in the team. 

"So I'd imagine, he will probably look for a centre-forward. Someone so they have options, they can change things around. 

"Gabriel Jesus is still there. He's obviously going to take a bit more responsibility. In the youth team they have Liam Delap who is starting to break through. They have options within the club. 

"But whether they go and spend huge amounts of money on Haaland, or someone like that, I don't know. 

"They tend to be really good with their transfer business and a lot of stuff has been done under the radar and then they produce a star from nowhere. 

"I think they'll be happy enough with what's in the squad, add Ferran Torres to that as well, they've got enough."

City are 14 points clear at the top of the Premier League and are still in with a chance of winning the quadruple in Aguero's final season.

Mino Raiola believes he may have been too cautious by moving his star client Erling Haaland to Borussia Dortmund.

The 20-year-old sensation joined Dortmund from Salzburg in January 2020 and has been on a goalscoring frenzy ever since.

Dortmund have reportedly set a €180million price tag for Haaland, with Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Real Madrid all expected to compete for his signature.

With a reported release clause in the striker's contract from 2022, clubs will need to meet Dortmund's demands if they wish to sign Haaland a year earlier than that.

Raiola believes the form Haaland has shown in Dortmund colours proves he could have moved directly to one of the continent's biggest clubs.

"With Haaland, everybody was wrong," the super agent told The Athletic.

"He did things much quicker than everybody imagined. Haaland is in front of his own development. He is ahead of his own schedule. 

"Maybe I was too careful when I said: 'Oh no, let's move to Dortmund instead of I-don't-know-where.

"This boy — I'm 100 per cent convinced and everybody's convinced — can move to any club, wherever he wants, already on this level. 

"And he could have done that last year.

"But maybe last year there were still teams [saying], 'Oh, he was in Red Bull (Salzburg), can he do it in another club?'.

"He is quicker than his own prediction. So yeah, Haaland is the talk of the town."

Raiola insisted it was not completely certain that Haaland will leave Dortmund at the end of the season and opened up on the decision for him not to join United.

The Norway forward has scored 21 goals in as many Bundesliga games this season, adding another 10 from six in the Champions League, a competition where he tops the scoring charts.

United, meanwhile, are still searching for a long-term solution at the number nine position despite bringing in Edinson Cavani on a free transfer last year.

"There was no fall-out between me and [United executive vice-chairman] Ed Woodward," added Raiola.

"I do not know if Manchester United are briefing this but if they are then they are covering their own loss and that I find strange and disappointing.

"It was just a normal negotiation and the player has chosen a different path.  

"If they want to blame someone then, fine, blame me but the player is happy. He has made his choice and we went through a normal process.

"This is a moment of waiting and seeing what is in the best interest of the player. 

"Sometimes the best interest of the player is not to move when everybody says he has to move.

"And sometimes it is in the best interest of the player to move when everybody says he has to stay. So we will see what happens."

Timo Werner only joined Chelsea at the start of the season, but could he leave Stamford Bridge?

Premier League giants Chelsea are among the clubs interested in Erling Haaland.

But reports claim Chelsea are not prepared to sanction a Werner exit.

 

TOP STORY – NO CHELSEA EXIT FOR WERNER

Chelsea are not planning on selling Timo Werner as they eye Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, according to Telegraph.

Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea have been heavily linked with Haaland, who is also being targeted by Real Madrid, Manchester City, Barcelona, Manchester United, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

But Chelsea are against the idea of parting with Werner or using the German forward in a deal to prise Haaland to Stamford Bridge after one season in London.

 

ROUND-UP

Barca are eyeing a move for Sergio Aguero after City announced their all-time leading goalscorer will leave the club on a free transfer at season's end, claims Fabrizio Romano. Inter, Chelsea and PSG have also been linked.

- Gazzetta dello Sport reports Kalidou Koulibaly is likely to leave Napoli at the end of the season. Koulibaly has been linked with United, PSG and Bayern Munich previously.

- While a Koulibaly departure is on the cards, could legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon arrive? Gazzetta dello Sport claims Napoli are interested in the Juventus great, who is searching for regular football.

Cristiano Ronaldo will decide his future before May, according to Tuttosport. The Juventus superstar has been linked with former clubs Madrid and United, as well as PSG.

- Fiorentina's Dusan Vlahovic, Torino captain Andrea Belotti, PSV's Donyell Malen, AZ's Myron Boadu and Celtic star Odsonne Edouard are on Milan's shortlist of strikers in the transfer window, reports Calciomercato.

- The Athletic and other outlets claim Liverpool are nearing a deal to sign RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate. Leipzig sporting director Markus Krosche played down the possible transfer in an interview with Stats Perform News.

Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe have been tipped to join Real Madrid.

But could Romelu Lukaku swap Inter for Madrid?

Madrid are reportedly keen on the in-form star.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID TRACKING LUKAKU

Real Madrid are interested in Inter star Romelu Lukaku, according to the Telegraph via Mundo Deportivo.

LaLiga champions Madrid have been heavily linked with Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe.

But Madrid are ready to bid for Lukaku, who is also reportedly wanted by former club Chelsea and Spanish giants Barcelona.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca reports Atletico Madrid will not lower their asking price for star midfielder Marcos Llorente, who has been linked with Manchester United as well as City. Atletico will only begin negotiations if his £103million (€120m) release clause is triggered.

- Cuatro says Madrid do not want Cristiano Ronaldo to return from Juve as Mbappe and Haaland are their primary targets. United and PSG are both interested in Ronaldo.

Liverpool and Chelsea are chasing Madrid midfielder Martin Odegaard, claims Diario AS. Odegaard is currently on loan at Arsenal, who want to make the deal permanent.

- ASRomaLive.it says Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette is wanted by Serie A side Roma, who are also eyeing Torino captain and Milan target Andrea Belotti.

Barca, Juventus and PSG are lining up to sign City veteran Sergio Aguero, reports Marca. Aguero is out of contract at season's end. Inter and Chelsea have also been linked.

- Fabrizio Romano says Madrid are still leading the race to sign Bayern Munich's soon-to-be free agent David Alaba, who has also been linked with Barca, Liverpool and PSG.

- Bundesliga champions Bayern are working to extend Leon Goretzka's contract, according to Romano.

Liverpool have set their sights on Torino right-back Wilfried Singo, claims Tuttosport. The 20-year-old has also caught Milan's attention.

Another day, another Erling Haaland rumour.

Haaland's future is dominating headlines amid widespread interest in Europe.

Barcelona are reportedly interested in the Borussia Dortmund sensation.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI OUT, HAALAND IN?

Barcelona have identified Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland as a top transfer priority if Lionel Messi leaves at the end of the season, according to Diario AS.

Messi is out of contract at season's end and the superstar Barca captain has been tipped to join either Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City.

Should Messi depart, Haaland is wanted by Barca and head coach Ronald Koeman, though all eyes will be on Lyon forward Memphis Depay if the former remains at Camp Nou.

Haaland has also been linked with Manchester United, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Juventus, PSG, Liverpool and City.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano claims City are convinced Kevin De Bruyne will sign a new contract with the club. Raheem Sterling's contract is also on the agenda, while soon-to-be free agent Sergio Aguero will decide his future in the coming weeks. Aguero has been linked with Inter, Barca and Chelsea.

United are set to challenge Madrid in the chase to sign Villarreal defender Pau Torres, reports The Mirror. United are keen to bolster their defence amid links with Madrid pair Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, Sevilla's Jules Kounde and RB Leipzig centre-back Ibrahima Konate.

- Calciomercato says Inter will reject any offers for star Romelu Lukaku. It comes as Chelsea and Barca reportedly eye the in-form Belgian.

Barca are monitoring the future of Valencia star Jose Luis Gaya, according to Diario AS. The captain is negotiating a new contract with Valencia.

- Napoli and Spain midfielder Fabian Ruiz is wanted by LaLiga trip Barca, Madrid and Atletico Madrid, claims Diario Sport.

- Mundo Deportivo reports Arsenal are considering a move for Real Betis star Nabil Fekir amid doubts over loanees Martin Odegaard and Dani Ceballos.

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