Manchester City announced Tuesday they had reached an agreement to sign star striker Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund — sending an ominous statement of intent to their rivals.
The Norwegian international will move to the Etihad after the Premier League champions agreed to pay his reported 60-million-euro (£51 million, $63 million) release clause.
“Manchester City can confirm we have reached an agreement in principle with Borussia Dortmund for the transfer of striker Erling Haaland to the club on 1st July 2022,” the club said in a statement.
“The transfer remains subject to the club finalising terms with the player.”
The deal for the towering 21-year-old ends City’s long search for a specialist striker to replace record goalscorer Sergio Aguero, who left last year.
The club failed in a high-profile attempt to prise England captain Harry Kane away from Tottenham Hotspur last summer.
Haaland, whose father Alf-Inge played for City from 2000 to 2003, has been sensational since joining Dortmund from RB Salzburg in January 2020, scoring 85 goals in 88 appearances for the German side.
Speculation linking City with Haaland had been gathering momentum in recent weeks, with reports on Monday claiming the player had already undergone a medical.
Manager Pep Guardiola was reluctant to discuss the situation in a press conference on Tuesday to preview Wednesday’s game at Wolves, but all but suggested a deal was imminent.
“Everybody knows the situation, but I should not talk because I do not like to talk about the future, next season,” he said.
“At the same time I should say something, but Borussia Dortmund and Man City told me I’m not allowed to say anything until the deal is completely done, so I cannot talk. I’m sorry. We’ll have time to talk.”
But after Haaland’s in-principle move was announced, City centre-back Aymeric Laporte tweeted: “Happy not to be running after this guy for the next couple of years. Welcome Erling.”
– Top-scorers –
City, who are the Premier League’s top-scorers this season with 89 goals, have often played without a recognised striker for the past two seasons.
Riyad Mahrez is their top scorer with 24 goals in all competitions, ahead of Raheem Sterling (16), Kevin De Bruyne (15) and Phil Foden (14).
Guardiola was keen to play down the significance of any one new signing.
He said: “We have a number nine right now. New players always help us try to be a stronger team, but a good defender will not solve our defensive problems and one striker will not resolve the scoring problems that maybe we have.
“We have always been consistent, scoring a lot of goals and conceding few. The stats are there, we are stable in those terms but the club always has to have a vision for the future.
“That’s why with the decisions the club takes, I’m always completely aware and supportive 100 percent.”
City, who lead Liverpool on goal difference at the top of the Premier League table and have a game in hand, are closing in on a fourth English league title in five years.
But they suffered a painful exit from the Champions League last week, losing 6-5 on aggregate to semi-final opponents Real Madrid.
For all Guardiola’s success in six years at the Etihad, his inability to conquer Europe is seen as a failure.
Haaland’s predatory instincts could be the missing ingredient to take City’s domestic dominance onto the Champions League stage.
“They have done fantastically well without having a top striker and now they have a top striker so you can only imagine what they will be like now,” former Manchester United and Norway defender Henning Berg told the BBC.
“As a number nine, as a goalscorer you cannot go to a better team because they get the ball in the box so many times.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp described Haaland as a “beast”.
“He’s a good player but City was never and will never be a team that wins games because of one player,” said Klopp after Liverpool’s 2-1 win at Aston Villa kept the pressure on City at the top of the Premier League.
“He’s a real beast, so unfortunately a really good signing.”