Exclusive - Manchester City will sign a new striker this summer whether they are successful in landing unsettled Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi or not. Securing a new ‘number nine’ is the club’s firm priority for 2021 and Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland remains their main target.
Sergio Aguero will turn 33 in June and is due to be out of contract that same month. The Argentine is arguably City’s greatest ever player, but has featured only sparingly this season as a result of injuries.
City are still open to Aguero staying for another season. But they have been planning to secure a new striker for the long-term for over 12 months already and there is little faith that Gabriel Jesus will be able to fill that void and lead the line for years to come as Aguero has done since 2011.
90min already confirmed last year that Haaland, who has scored 38 goals in 40 appearances for Dortmund since moving to Germany last January, is top of City’s wish list.
City officials believe they are the front of the queue for Haaland and 90min understands that the club has been in touch with the player’s family and representatives since his early playing days at Molde back in his native Norway.
Haaland’s camp know that a move to City is an option and the player takes advice from his father, Alf Inge, very seriously. Haaland Sr. played for City for three years during his own career, having to retire early as a result of injury in 2003, and his son supported the club as a boy even after he had left.
City believe that 2021 is the right time for them to move for Haaland and are buoyed by the fact they he will not simply choose the club that makes the biggest offer, as shown when he chose to join Dortmund instead of Manchester United.
Haaland will have only been at Dortmund for 18 months by the time summer comes around. But he actually spent even less time at previous club Red Bull Salzburg - just one year from January 2019 to January 2020 - and there is a feeling among his suitors he is ready for another new challenge.
Even though the 19-year-old has a release clause in his contract that will become active in 2022 and cap the amount that Dortmund can charge for him, the race for his signature is already beginning in earnest and 90min has previously revealed that Chelsea are also very interested in him. Sources have now confirmed that Chelsea have a deal ready to offer.
Despite Haaland being a clear favourite, City do have other potential options to look at. Pep Guardiola is a big admirer of Inter star Lautaro Martinez, although his club are keen for him to sign a new contract and the player himself previously wanted to join Barcelona. That move never materialised and it is not clear if he will push to move again, especially with Inter a resurgent force.
City have also been linked with former Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku, another Inter player. But the Nerazzuri are desperate to keep him and want to secure his future with a new long-term contract that will reduce the risk of him being lured elsewhere.
From the player’s own perspective, 90min understands he is happy where he is and not in a hurry to head back to England after his time with United turned sour. Were he to move on, he would prefer it to be for a team in Spain, Germany or a Serie A rival. Even so, City still may not be off the table.
A new main striker aside, the City hierarchy remains deeply attached to the idea of signing Lionel Messi, who will be able to leave Barcelona as a free agent in just a matter of months if he decides against signing a new contract at Camp Nou.
Earlier this week it was suggested that City’s more patient strategy with Messi, delaying any approach until at least March or April, could given them the upper hand over Paris Saint-Germain in pursuit of the six-time Ballon d’Or winner because he doesn’t appreciate the latter’s noisier and more aggressive tactics, which continues to generate enormous media speculation.
Guardiola and City staff have no issue signing Messi, but it has been made clear that a striker is of vital importance and the club will do everything to secure a ‘number nine’ regardless.