DANNY MURPHY: Signing Erling Haaland will lift the gloom of Man City’s Champions League failure… Pep Guardiola’s side would be in the final if they had a natural finisher like him and £63m could easily prove a bargain
- Man City’s exit to Real Madrid will strengthen their desire to sign Haaland
- £63million arrival from Borussia Dortmund looks set to go through in summer
- City are still short of a lethal finishers in the mould of legend Sergio Aguero
- Pep Guardiola’s side are hardly in crisis but Haaland will only improve them
Manchester City’s desire to sign Erling Haaland will only be strengthened by their Champions League exit against Real Madrid.
Though City scored five times over two legs and deserved to progress, they are out because of other missed chances.
I believe Haaland is a striker who would have changed the outcome in the Bernabeu just as Sergio Aguero famously did against QPR to win City’s first league title.
Erling Haaland appears to be bound for Manchester City in a deal worth £63million
City do need an accomplished finisher like Haaland to succeed in the Champions League
Sometimes the margins are so tight, you just need that natural goalscorer who doesn’t tense up when a chance falls.
Aguero would smash the ball in like he was playing football in the park with his mates, and Haaland looks to have the same mentality.
Chelsea fans would point out everyone was excited by Romelu Lukaku’s arrival last summer but I can’t see Haaland struggling in the same way should City get him.
He’ll fit into the City ethos and Pep Guardiola will have a clear plan how to use him whereas you felt Thomas Tuchel wasn’t the driving force behind Lukaku going to Stamford Bridge.
Despite Wednesday’s European shock, City aren’t in crisis. They could win a fourth Premier League title in five years.
They have an outstanding squad that can only be improved by really special players. Haaland is one and City getting a deal over the line would be a super move for them and lift any lasting gloom from the Real result.
Manchester City were left shell-shocked as Real Madrid dumped them out of Europe
This season, City have played with false nine. There are advantages in keeping possession and causing tactical problems but the big picture remains that having a forward capable of scoring huge amounts of goals is beneficial to being the best.
And though Haaland is famed for his strength, power and finishing, he has the technical ability that means Pep won’t have to rip up the gameplan that has served him well so far.
Haaland may not drop as deep as Harry Kane but he does have good feet for someone his size and can link up play.
His all-round abilities will give Pep options. If a team sets up a low block, Haaland’s power in the air gives them a Plan B of putting the ball into the box – something that’s not been evident this season.
And if the opposition push up higher, as Liverpool might do, Haaland has the pace to make runs in behind.
Pep Guardiola often plays with a false nine but he still requires an assured finisher up front
At 21, he’s not the finished article but Guardiola is a coach who has repeatedly proved he can add that 10 per cent extra to his players.
If Haaland was coming from the Italian or Spanish league, I might worry about his ability to work off the ball, a facet of City and Liverpool’s play.
But he’d be arriving from Dortmund who play good football at a high tempo just as City do.
Haaland’s goal record, 61 in 57 league starts in Germany, means he is worth more than double the reported £63million get-out clause City can get him for.
It makes financial sense as well as football sense, even with the astronomical wages.
He’s so young that even if struggles in England – which I can’t see – he could still be sold for a profit. If things go as I expect, his asking price would be £100million more than City would pay.
I have felt a bit for Lukaku this season. The statistics show that Chelsea don’t create as many chances for their strikers as City would.
Romelu Lukaku’s first season back at Chelsea hasn’t been an overwhelming success
I am sure Tuchel wasn’t alarmed by the Lukaku signing but the deal was probably in the offing even before he joined the club. Guardiola would have hand-picked Haaland and that gives the player a big head start.
The only risk concerns how Haaland will handle the pressure and expectation at City compared to Norway, Austria and Germany. Every touch of the ball and run that he makes will be analysed.
It is a calculated risk to see if he copes but one that is definitely worth taking. His father Alf is a former City player and he’s scored Champions League goals since his teens so you’d expect him to thrive under the spotlight.
In Madrid last week, Karim Benzema had a relatively quiet game but still showed himself a master of the penalty area; setting up Real’s late equaliser and then winning and converting the decisive penalty.
It showed how City can still improve even as domestic champions and Haaland is the best young centre-forward in the world for them to get.