Manchester City could be powerless to prevent Erling Haaland from joining Real Madrid amid claims the striker has been convinced he needs to jump ship following a remarkable snub.
Haaland can stake a serious claim to being the best striker in world football right now. The Norwegian superstar has operated at just below a goal per game for the last four years during his stints at Borussia Dortmund and Man City.
Haaland helped fire City to a historic treble last term, though to the surprise of many, was overlooked when it came to winning the game’s individual top honours. Indeed, Haaland lost out to Lionel Messi in both the 2023 Ballon d’Or and FIFA’s ‘The Best’ award.
Messi did win Ligue 1 with PSG as well as the Leagues Cup soon after joining MLS side Inter Miami. The memory of winning the World Cup with Argentina will no doubt have lingered in many voters’ minds.
However, that should not have factored into the equation for FIFA’s award which is based on performances in a calendar year. Messi lifted the World Cup trophy in December of 2022.
Now, according to a bombshell report from Spanish outlet AS, it’s apparently dawned on Haaland and his representatives that he must join one of Spain’s big two if he’s to have a fair shake at winning the most coveted individual honours.
Given Barcelona’s well-documented financial woes, the only viable option is Real Madrid.
Award snubs leaves Haaland family ‘displeased’
AS state Haaland as well as father Alf-Inge both have a sneaking suspicion Erling would’ve pipped Messi to FIFA’s award if mirroring his City exploits in the white shirt of Real Madrid.
Haaland and Messi tied in the voting for that particular award. However, Messi scooped the prize via tiebreaker given more weight is placed on the picks made by captains of the men’s national teams.
Messi raised his profile to global icon level during his glorious spell at Barcelona. The report claims Haaland is now aware he must join Barca’s bitter rivals Real Madrid if he’s to put himself in the same bracket as Messi and Real legend Cristiano Ronaldo.
Haaland to Real Madrid won’t cost as much as you’d think
Haaland is under contract with Man City until the summer of 2027. His deal is understood to contain a release clause, though the exact figures involved have been the subject of fervent speculation.
Forbes previously claimed Haaland’s release clause – which is said to become active in the summer – is two-tiered. Their claim was overseas clubs such as Real Madrid can sign Haaland for a vastly reduced sum when compared to City’s Premier League rivals.
A €100m (approx. £85m) figure was cited, while other outlets have suggested the true sum is above €100m. In any case, what is clear is non-English sides can sign the striker for well below his market value.
Indeed, if Haaland were sold on the open market he’d surely smash the current world record still held by Neymar (€222m, Barcelona to PSG – 2017).
Haaland AND Mbappe at the Bernabeu?
The obvious question to ask is given Real are pursuing Kylian Mbappe, where does Haaland fit in? AS address that point, claiming that Real can actually afford to sign both players in what would set up one of the most devastating forward lines in football history.
If Mbappe does choose Real Madrid (his contract expires in the summer), he’ll be leaving PSG as a free agent and as such, Real won’t have to pay a transfer fee. What’s more, the presence of Haaland’s release clause ensures the Norwegian can be signed for a fee well below his natural valuation.
Of course, both players would demand gigantic salaries and there’ll be hefty sign-on and agents’ fees, though AS are adamant both could be signed and it’s not a case of one or the other.
Agent Bellingham doing his bit
Adding fuel to the fire is a second AS report that claims Haaland’s former teammate at Borussia Dortmund, Jude Bellingham, has been tasked with luring the striker to Madrid.
Bellingham has proven an instant hit at Real and struck up a strong friendship with Haaland during their Dortmund days.
The report states Bellingham is in regular contact with Haaland and often talks up the idea of Haaland joining him at Real.
While Bellingham acting as Real’s PR man isn’t likely to to be a deciding factor in what would clearly be a career-defining move for Haaland, it could be a case of every little helps for Real.