Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland is expected to be the most-wanted player on the planet when his €75m release clause kicks in next summer, but according to a report in Spain, the scramble for his signature could actually come six months earlier.
Chelsea had been chasing Haaland earlier this summer and were prepared to pay in excess of £130m for the Norway international, only to find Dortmund unwilling to sell - despite the fact he will be available for half that when his release clause becomes active.
Up until now, it had been widely accepted that the clause would only become active in the summer of 2022, but according to Marca, it actually springs into life the moment the 2021 summer transfer window slams shut.
It is claimed that Haaland's initial promise to Dortmund when he joined back in January 2020 was that he would spend at least two years with the club, who agreed to give him the freedom he was looking for in the form of this release clause.
The report even suggests that Dortmund have prepared for his departure already by bringing in Dutch striker Donyell Malen from PSV Eindhoven. The 22-year-old was billed as the replacement for winger Jadon Sancho, who joined Manchester United, but the fact that the pair play in different positions raised suspicions that Malen's move had more to do with Haaland's future.
In terms of suitors for Haaland, Real Madrid are named as the leading candidates. They have been saving up to sign Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe for over £100m this summer, but with the Frenchman proving to be unavailable, they could use that money to land Haaland and then sign Mbappe on a free transfer when his contract expires six months later.
Real will face stiff competition from Manchester United and Manchester City, both of whom have been following Haaland for a while now but were never prepared to pay the kind of money Chelsea offered up earlier this summer.
City are looking to sign Tottenham's Harry Kane in the coming weeks but have found it impossible to convince chairman Daniel Levy to part ways with his talisman, which could see them turn to Haaland in the future.
As for United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer prioritised moves for Sancho and Raphael Varane this summer while Haaland was too expensive, but he remains close with his fellow countryman and is expected to throw his hat into the ring once his release clause becomes active.