Is Erling Haaland the final piece of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City jigsaw?
Pep Guardiola said last year that scoring goals is the “most difficult thing in football”.
It is no wonder then that the Manchester City manager was so keen to bring Erling Haaland to the Etihad Stadium, as the Norwegian has made the task look easy throughout his young career.
An agreement has been reached in principle for Haaland to join City from July 1 after the Premier League champions triggered his 60million euros (£51.25million) release clause from Borussia Dortmund.
His signing concludes City’s long search for an out-and-out striker, having failed in their attempts to extract Harry Kane from Tottenham last summer.
It is now two years since Guardiola’s side have boasted a regular specialist in that position, with record goalscorer Sergio Aguero enduring an injury-hit season before leaving the club 12 months ago.
They have certainly not fared badly in that time, but the addition of Haaland has the feel of a final piece of the jigsaw being put into place.
Haaland has big boots to fill in those of Aguero but he has already proven he can deliver under pressure and at the highest level, having netted a remarkable 85 times in 88 appearances for Dortmund.
After hitting the ground running with a hat-trick on debut, virtually all his prolific two-and-a-half-year spell with the Bundesliga side was played in the shadow of speculation over his future.
He has long been regarded as one of the hottest properties in the game and a move to City, or another European powerhouse such as Real Madrid or Barcelona, had seemed inevitable for some time.
How Manchester United might be kicking themselves now, seeing a player they were heavily linked with themselves prior to his now-bargain £17million move to Dortmund in January 2020 being paraded by their cross-town rivals.
Yet City always seemed a natural destination for a player with a family link and past affinity for the club.
Haaland followed City as a youngster after his father Alf-Inge Haaland played for them from 2000-03 following earlier spells at Nottingham Forest and Leeds.
City never got to see the best of Alf-Inge due to injury, his career never really recovering from a notorious Roy Keane tackle in 2001. Yet with Haaland senior playing a key off-field role in his son’s affairs, the club’s connection with him may be about to pay rich dividends.
Admittedly, there has been a cost to pay with reported weekly wages for the player of £500,000 with his representatives also collecting sums.
Yet what they will get for their money is a player who, at 6ft 4in and with strength and pace to burn, cuts an imposing figure and has a natural goalscorer’s instinct.
Born in Leeds in 2000, Haaland grew up in Bryne, Norway. With his mother Gry Marita Braut having been a heptathlete, he boasted strong sporting genes and progressed through the junior ranks of local football club Bryne.
He was lured to Molde in 2017 and two years later was snapped up by RB Salzburg. It was in Austria he exploded into mainstream consciousness, scoring 29 goals in 27 games including an eye-catching eight in one Champions League group stage and five hat-tricks.
He spent just one year at Salzburg before moving to Dortmund, still aged just 19.
So far he has taken everything in his considerable stride and, if the current trajectory continues, Guardiola will not have to worry where the goals are coming from.
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