Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro might make a seemingly eternal midfield composition, but Real Madrid still need to prepare for life after them.

Following the signings of Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni over the past two off-season transfer windows, Los Blancos will look for a third.

Reports suggest that what they are looking for is penalty area threat, and the intent is not necessarily to replace the attributes of the three veterans. All signs point to Germany, and Borussia Dortmund's England international Jude Bellingham.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID EYE BELLINGHAM AS FINAL PIECE OF MIDFIELD PUZZLE

Real Madrid will look to sign Bellingham in the 2023 off-season transfer window, according to Diario AS.

According to reports, Bellingham does not have a release clause in his deal at Dortmund and with his contract running to 2025, with the German club seeking a sale in excess of €100million.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid will not look to be the only suitors, with Chelsea and Liverpool also interested.

ROUND-UP

- Having already opened talks over Raheem Sterling, the Telegraph reports Chelsea are also looking to sign Manchester City's Nathan Ake.

- Meanwhile, Milan are considering a move for Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech, per Calciomercato.

Tottenham want to sign Everton duo Richarlison and Anthony Gordon, according to Sky Sports.

- Christophe Galtier is close to being named as PSG's new boss, with Mauricio Pochettino on the way out, ESPN reports.

Borussia Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke has hit out at "arrogant idiots" in the English media, while praising Bayern Munich in their signing of Sadio Mane.

Bayern confirmed Mane's signing from Liverpool last Wednesday, with Watzke heralding the 30-year-old's transfer as one that improves the quality of the Bundesliga.

With Karim Adeyemi and Adam Hlozek moving to Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen respectively, and with Ryan Gravenberch also set to sign for Bayern, the Bundesliga's top clubs have bolstered with talented youth.

Meanwhile, German World Cup winner Mario Gotze will head for Eintracht Frankfurt ahead of their debut season in the Champions League.

In an interview with Bild, the Dortmund CEO praised the Mane transfer and barked back on the competitiveness of English clubs in response to comments from Dean Saunders on Talksport, claiming Mane will waste his prime playing in "third gear" at a dominant Bayern.

"Sadio Mane is a very good transfer, on which I expressly congratulate Bayern," Watzke said.

"There are always some arrogant idiots like in this case. As a board member of Europe's club association ECA, I know that German football still has a good reputation.

"The English didn't win any of the three European titles last season - even though I would have really given Jürgen Klopp a chance with Liverpool in the Champions League."

Along with his role at BVB, Watzke is also the DFL's supervisory board chairman, overseeing the operation of Germany's professional domestic leagues.

While expressing Dortmund's excitement on the return of fierce rival Schalke to the German top flight with Werder Bremen, he insisted it was important for the overall health of the Bundesliga along with high-profile transfers.

"Not only are we looking forward to the Revierderby but the whole Bundesliga, because it is the mother of all derbies," Watzke said.

"This is important because next year a lot of conditions will already be in place for the resale of the television rights in 2025, and if the Bundesliga booms this season, that will help us a lot with marketing.

"The Bundesliga has to get stars like Mane and Gotze, but also create stars themselves again."

Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham is the exact type of player Liverpool should be targeting and would make a "great signing" for the club.

That is according to John Barnes, who also told Stats Perform he believes the Reds missed a trick by not bringing in Yves Bissouma, who has now signed for Tottenham.

Liverpool have already been active this window, having added Darwin Nunez and Fabio Carvalho to their attack to compensate for the loss of Sadio Mane, who has joined Bayern Munich.

Jurgen Klopp's side continue to be linked with an array of other players, with Dortmund star and England international Bellingham a rumoured target.

Bellingham has made a big impact for the Bundesliga giants since arriving from Birmingham City two seasons ago, and Barnes would like to see him return to English football.

"I think he's a fantastic player," Barnes said of Bellingham. "Another player who I like to have thought would have suited Liverpool, but went to Tottenham, is Yves Bissouma.

"Obviously that's not there anymore because he's gone to Tottenham, but that's the template of the type of midfield player we want. 

"A hardworking midfield player, probably more defensive than attacking, who may not score many goals but works hard, wins the ball, gets it forward to the front three quickly. 

"Jude Bellingham is similar [to Bissouma]. He probably has a little bit more quality on the ball. He's English, he's young, that would be a fantastic signing for us. 

"But it probably isn't going to happen this year. Hopefully next season we could make that signing."

Despite still being aged 18, Bellingham started 44 games for Dortmund in all competitions in the 2021-22 season – four more than any other player.

He has also racked up 15 senior caps for England and became the youngest player to represent his country in a major tournament at last year's Euro 2020.

 

While speculation surrounding Bellingham's future looks set to continue, Liverpool have already spent big to sign Nunez from Benfica.

The Uruguay international starred in the Primeira Liga and Champions League and will help fill the void left by Mane's move to Bayern.

Nunez joins Liverpool after netting 48 goals in 85 appearances for Benfica in total, finishing as the top scorer in the Portuguese top flight in the 2021-22 campaign with 26 strikes.

But while Liverpool may have splashed out a reported £64million (€75m) to sign the striker, with a further £21.4m in potential add-ons, Barnes believes he will need time to adjust.

"He's coming to a new country, he's young, he's coming to new environments and new team, he has to be given time," Barnes said. 

"Now if he's like [Diogo] Jota, for example, he hits the ground running, that's a bonus, but I don't expect him to come in and all of a sudden take to the team straightaway.

 

"We've seen times that players, like [Roberto] Firmino for example, took time to adjust. Thiago [Alcantara] is another who took time to adjust.

"I think they've done their homework and knowing that they can fit him into the template of what they actually want.

"But I'm not putting expectations on him all of a sudden to be the best player on the team and for everything to be seamless. 

"Jurgen Klopp has done his homework and will feel that he can get the best out of him within the framework of the team. So I'm expecting him to be successful in time."

It is the end of an era at Liverpool as one of their iconic front three leaves for pastures new.

After six years at Anfield, Sadio Mane has departed for a new adventure with Bayern Munich, completing a move for €41million (£35.2million).

Stats Perform understands Liverpool will receive a guaranteed €32million (£27.5m), plus €6m (£5.2m) based on appearances and a further €3m (£2.5m) depending on future success that Mane and Bayern achieve.

The Reds have already moved on by bringing in Uruguay striker Darwin Nunez from Benfica, but it feels significant that Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah will never play together again for Jurgen Klopp's side.

The trio fired Liverpool to multiple trophies, including a Champions League and Premier League, though the additions of Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz in the last couple of years had already seen a slight evolution.

However, Klopp has now lost one of his main men, which is an experience the German boss has had to get used to in his career, especially the idea of his players moving to Munich.

While it may not feel like quite the blow of past desertions given the forward planning, Stats Perform has taken a look at how the decision to leave Klopp went in the past.

 

Nuri Sahin

Sahin was always likely to be a major component for Borussia Dortmund when he became the Bundesliga's youngest player aged 16 years, 11 months against Wolfsburg in August 2006, a record that was only broken in November 2020 by Youssoufa Moukoko.

He shone under Klopp, particularly in 2010-11 when Dortmund shocked German football to win the Bundesliga title, with Sahin claiming the league's Player of the Year award and earning a move to Real Madrid.

After 14 goal involvements from midfield (six goals, eight assists) in his last season in the Bundesliga, Sahin struggled to do similar in Spain, making just 10 appearances in all competitions for Madrid, with one solitary goal in the Copa del Rey against Ponferradina.

An unsuccessful loan move to Liverpool the following season was cut short halfway through, and just 20 months after leaving Signal Iduna Park, Sahin was back in the yellow and black on loan, before making the switch permanent in 2014, staying until a move to Werder Bremen in 2018.

Shinji Kagawa

The Japan international spent two very productive seasons at Dortmund under Klopp between 2010 and 2012, winning back-to-back Bundesliga titles and scoring 21 goals in 49 league games.

Kagawa decided to try his hand at the Premier League, moving to Manchester United in June 2012, but much like Sahin, found the grass far from greener.

Due to injury, he only played a supporting role as United won the title in the 2012-13 season, scoring six goals in 26 appearances in all competitions, before making a further 29 in the first campaign at Old Trafford following the retirement of Alex Ferguson, with no additional goals to his name.

Like Sahin, Kagawa returned to Dortmund in 2014, spending a further five years at the club.

 

Mario Gotze

The fresh-faced Gotze came through the youth ranks at Dortmund and, like Kagawa, played a vital role in Klopp's great Dortmund side that won two Bundesliga titles, and also had a big hand in getting them to the 2013 Champions League final.

One of the side narratives to that final against Bayern was that prior to it, Gotze had agreed a €37m move to the Bavarian club.

Klopp was hurt by Gotze's decision, but although the attacking midfielder went on to score the winner for Germany in the 2014 World Cup final and have a decent record at Bayern, scoring 36 goals in 114 games, he never really established himself as a key cog in their team, and in a familiar move for those who had left Dortmund, returned three years later.

Gotze spent four years back in the yellow and black, but was never able to recapture the magic that made him one of Europe's hottest prospects under Klopp.

Robert Lewandowski

Arguably the only real success story of those who moved on from Klopp, though there is no denying that the building blocks were put in place by the German for Lewandowski to become the striker he is today.

Arriving at Dortmund as an unknown from Lech Poznan, he scored just eight times in 33 games in his first Bundesliga season, before going on to rack up 66 across his next three league campaigns.

His goals also played a part in Dortmund winning two titles and reaching the Champions League final, but a year after Gotze had moved to Bayern, Lewandowski did the same following the expiry of his contract.

There were thoughts that the Poland international might struggle to replicate his form to quite the expected levels in Munich, scoring just 17 goals in his first Bundesliga season.

However, since then he has never scored fewer than 22, and broke Gerd Muller's record for most goals in a Bundesliga season when he netted 41 times in just 29 games in 2020-21.

Since leaving Dortmund in 2014, Lewandowski has won eight Bundesliga titles, three DFB-Pokal's and a Champions League, while also being awarded the FIFA Best Men's Player of the Year in the last two years.

 

Philippe Coutinho

Klopp probably thought the days of losing his star players were behind him when he arrived at Liverpool, but on the eve of his third season at Anfield, he was rocked when Coutinho handed in a transfer request.

The influential Brazilian was part of Klopp's first great front three at Liverpool along with Mane and Firmino, but the arrival of Salah softened the blow of his move to Barcelona in January 2018, as did the reported £142m (€160m) fee.

Despite a promising start to life at the Camp Nou, the pressure of the price tag and essentially being the replacement for the legendary Andres Iniesta proved too much, with Coutinho loaned to, of course, Bayern after just 18 months in Spain.

He had a successful season in Germany, winning a treble and having 20 goal involvements (11 goals and nine assists) in 38 appearances in all competitions, but returned to Barca and again failed to impress, albeit a serious knee injury curtailed most of his 2020-21 campaign.

After 16 goals and seven assists in 84 games in all for Barca, Coutinho returned to England in January 2022 to play for ex-Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa, recording five goals and three assists, enough to secure a permanent move for a slightly more modest fee of around £17m (€20m).

Georginio Wijnaldum

The Netherlands midfielder may be a harsh inclusion as it remains unclear how much of his exit from Liverpool was his decision and how much was the club's, but Wijnaldum parted ways with Klopp and the Reds at the end of the 2020-21 season to join Paris Saint-Germain.

The man who earned cult status at Liverpool with his two goals against Barcelona in their dramatic comeback in the Champions League semi-final second leg three years ago would now get the chance to play alongside Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi.

However, despite being a regular under Klopp, having never started fewer than 27 league games in his five years on Merseyside, the 31-year-old started just 18 Ligue 1 games for PSG, scoring once.

Wijnaldum was voted the worst signing in Ligue 1 by a poll held by Get French Football News, but still has two years left on his contract at the Parc des Princes, so could yet turn things around, and had a title winners' medal to show for his efforts after his debut campaign.

Mane will most likely win more titles in Germany to add to his already meaty collection from his time at Liverpool, but whether he can recreate the level of performances and subsequent adulation he received from the red half of Merseyside remains to be seen.

Barcelona's much-publicised financial difficulties are creating unwanted kind of leverage in the transfer market.

The Blaugrana have been linked to the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Mohamed Salah, but via a free transfer, circumventing the need for an initial outlay.

Reports suggest one of their transfer targets this off-season appears to be unattainable, though.

TOP STORY – SEVILLA STIFLE KOUNDE MOVE TO BARCELONA

Barcelona's reported interest in Jules Kounde will face a stumbling block in the form of Sevilla, according to Marca.

The Andalusian club have set a €60million price for Kounde, reportedly knowing that interest from Premier League clubs will meet that benchmark and effectively price Barcelona out of the market.

In addition, Sevilla would want to close the deal quickly, forcing Barcelona into cash-flow difficulty if they were to meet the demands for Kounde.

Barcelona are unwilling to pay the €60m despite sourcing fresh funds, with a reported need to primarily balance this year's budget.

ROUND-UP

Arsenal and Newcastle United are keen on Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz, whose contract runs out in 2023, according to Corriere dello Sport.

Borussia Dortmund are set to sign Ajax striker Sebastian Haller, per ESPN.

Real Madrid have stepped up their interest in Raheem Sterling with his future in Manchester City uncertain, the Mirror reports.

Chelsea are considering signing 29-year-old Lens full-back Jonathan Clauss, Goal is reporting.

Bayern Munich face a tricky early test when they begin their Bundesliga title defence at Eintracht Frankfurt in the season's opening game on August 5.

Whether the champions still have Robert Lewandowski in their ranks come that date remains to be seen, as the prolific Polish striker pushes for a move away, and there could be turbulent times for the Bavarian giants before the game comes around.

Frankfurt won the Europa League in the 2021-22 season, while Bayern have landed 10 consecutive Bundesliga titles, making it a tasty appetiser for the new campaign.

It will be the first time in the history of the Bundesliga that the reigning champions will have come up against the UEFA Cup or Europa League holders on matchday one, Opta said.

Frankfurt finished a modest 11th in last season's German top flight, with their form in Europe offering a striking contrast to their domestic fortunes.

They will hope that home advantage proves significant, and history tells us that Bundesliga champions can struggle early on. Teams beginning the defence of their Bundesliga title have started with an away fixture in 21 league seasons and have lost 10 of them (W6 D5).

While Julian Nagelsmann's Bayern and Oliver Glasner's Frankfurt get the season under way with their Friday night game, the standout fixture on the opening weekend is set to take place at Signal Iduna Park as Borussia Dortmund host Bayer Leverkusen.

That is a clash of the teams that finished second and third respectively last season. Dortmund will be starting life without Erling Haaland, the prolific striker who has elected to move on to Manchester City, with Karim Adeyemi signed from Salzburg as his replacement.

Strong starters in recent seasons, Dortmund have won each of their last seven Bundesliga openers.

RB Leipzig head to Stuttgart on the first weekend of the campaign, while promoted Schalke and Werder Bremen both face away trips as they tackle Cologne and Wolfsburg respectively.

Bayern face further August fixtures against Wolfsburg, Bochum and Borussia Monchengladbach, with the first Klassiker of the season against Dortmund scheduled for the long weekend of October 7-10. Dortmund will have home advantage for that one, with Bayern then hosting BVB over the weekend of March 31 to April 3.

Bayern Munich will look for a record-extending 11th Bundesliga title in the 2022-23 campaign, with Borussia Dortmund or RB Leipzig the likely challengers to stop them.

Julian Nagelsmann's side sealed the 2021-22 championship with three games left to play after a 3-1 victory over fierce rivals Dortmund in late April.

The Bundesliga champions have to wait until matchday nine for the first Der Klassiker league meeting, with that clash to be played at Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park between October 7 and October 10.

Nagelsmann's side will then hope to have gained an advantage in the league before they head for their first league game against Leipzig, away in January after the World Cup has taken place.

Bayern beat Dortmund three times across the German top flight and DFL-Supercup last season, and the return meeting will take place at Allianz Arena between March 31 and April 3.

The Bavaria giants will again hope to wrap up the title with games to spare, with a potentially tricky task at home to Leipzig their penultimate game before concluding their campaign away to Cologne.

Bayern's 2022-23 Bundesliga fixtures in full:
 

05/08/2022 - Eintracht Frankfurt (a)
12/08/2022 - Wolfsburg (h)
19/08/2022 - Bochum (a)
26/08/2022 - Borussia Monchengladbach (h)
02/09/2022 - Union Berlin (a)
09/09/2022 - Stuttgart (h)
16/09/2022 - Augsburg (a)
30/09/2022 - Bayer Leverkusen (h)
07/10/2022 - Borussia Dortmund (a)
14/10/2022 - Freiburg (h)
21/10/2022- Hoffenheim (a)
28/10/2022 - Mainz (h)
04/11/2022 - Hertha (a)
08/11/2022 - Werder Bremen (h)
11/11/2022 - Schalke (a)
20/01/2023 - RB Leipzig (a)
24/01/2023 - Cologne (h)
27/01/2023 - Eintracht Frankfurt (h)
03/02/2023 - Wolfsburg (a)
10/02/2023 - Bochum (h)
17/02/2023 - Borussia Monchengladbach (a)
24/02/2023 - Union Berlin (h)
03/03/2023 - Stuttgart (a)
10/03/2023 - Augsburg (h)
17/03/2023 - Bayer Leverkusen (a)
31/03/2023 - Borussia Dortmund (h)
08/04/2023 - Freiburg (a)
14/04/2023 - Hoffenheim (h)
21/04/2023 - Mainz (a)
28/04/2023 - Hertha (h)
05/05/2023 - Werder Bremen (a)
12/05/2023 - Schalke (h)
19/05/2023 - RB Leipzig (h)
27/05/2023 - Cologne (a)

Arsenal are set to make their first big splash of this transfer period with the signing of 22-year-old Porto midfielder Fabio Vieira.

The Gunners have been linked with various big names – including Raheem Sterling, Youri Tielemans and Christopher Nkunku – but have struggled to get deals over the line for players that could be considered key signings.

Vieira, who has made 20 appearances for Portugal Under-21s, was a move that came out of left-field, but those that call the Emirates Stadium home will hope it proves to be a masterstroke.

 

TOP STORY – VIEIRA'S MOVE TO ARSENAL REACHES FINAL STAGES

According to ESPN, a deal in the range of €40million is said to be in place, with Vieira said to be heading to London for his medical on Friday before finalising a five-year deal.

The talented attacking midfielder – who played in both the number-10 role and as a second striker – finished the Primeira Liga season with six goals and 14 assists from 27 appearances. Nobody in Portugal's top division had more assists.

Vieira reportedly had a €50m release clause with Porto, but the club were happy to accept the reduced figure.

It could be the start of a big week for Arsenal, with ESPN also mentioning they are leading the race for Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus in a deal that could be worth up to £50 million.

 

ROUND-UP

– According to The Sun, Liverpool remain interested in Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham, but they will remain patient and not pursue him in this transfer period.

– Inter have turned down a €50m bid from Paris Saint-Germain for Milan Skriniar, holding firm at an asking price of €80m, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Newcastle United target Sven Botman is reportedly favouring Milan if he is to leave Lille, per Football Insider.

– The Telegraph is reporting Southampton have agreed to a deal worth up to £15m for 20-year-old City goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu, while The Athletic claims they are also interested in 18-year-old City midfielder Romeo Lavia.

Fulham and Wolves will reportedly compete for the signature of Sporting midfielder Joao Palhinha, according to 90min.

Erling Haaland will not guarantee more success for Manchester City, according to Liverpool great and television pundit Jamie Carragher.

City confirmed Haaland's arrival on Monday after agreeing personal terms and passing a medical, with the Norway striker signing a five-year contract.

The announcement came just over a month after City initially revealed they had reached an agreement with Borussia Dortmund over a deal reportedly worth £64.2million (€75m).

At Dortmund, Haaland developed into one of the world's most feared strikers, scoring 86 goals in 89 games across all competitions, averaging one every 84 minutes.

Over the same period, only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (123 in 108 matches) boasted a better scoring rate among players from Europe's top five leagues.

City have largely gone without a recognised central striker for the best part of two years, with Sergio Aguero having left in 2021, though he had not been a regular during his final campaign in 2020-21.

Fans of other clubs might fear Haaland's signing takes City another step closer to domination and, while Carragher accepts such concerns are well-founded, he is adamant the 21-year-old's arrival brings no guarantee of greater success.

"It's a worry for the rest of the Premier League," Carragher told Sky Sports. "We are talking about one of the world's greats, even at such a young age, but I don't think anyone should be raising the white flag too early because it's going to be really interesting how he fits into the team.

"Pep Guardiola hasn't really used a central striker in the last couple of years and he's still been very successful. So, it will be really interesting to see how he settles, but from the Premier League's point of view, I think it is fantastic that we've got one of the world's leading players right now joining our league.

 

"That doesn't always happen, certainly at a young age, and a lot of his best years are going to be in the Premier League. So, it'll be really exciting for everyone to watch, but it's obviously going to be a tough proposition trying to stop Manchester City."

Elaborating on his comment regarding how Haaland fits into the team, Carragher suggested the striker will probably not make a huge difference to City's points total in the Premier League.

But in the Champions League, where the margin for error in two-legged ties is much less forgiving, he could be decisive.

"They have so many players now who don't play through the middle. They keep the ball so well and they control the game so well. Maybe they will lose a little bit of that," Carragher continued. "So, I don't think it's a forgone conclusion that means City are going to win everything.

"They have a great team and a great manager, and I actually think Haaland coming in won't make that much of a difference in terms of how many points they get. They always get in the mid-90s for points anyway, which is a remarkable feat.

"He may have been brought in just to make that difference in those games where they just fell short, maybe more in the Champions League than the Premier League, actually.

"He'll change, he'll evolve, he's still a lot to learn, he's a young player. He'll learn off one of the greatest coaches in world football. He'll bring things to his game. But he should also remember not to change too much. He is what he is. Powerful, his pace, the goals he gets.

"That's what I'm intrigued with, how he fits into that Pep Guardiola style which is a bit more slow and technical than the end-to-end type of football you see in the Bundesliga."

Harry Kane says the arrivals of Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez in the Premier League will drive him to improve in an enticing Golden Boot race.

Kane has won three Golden Boot awards in the English top flight – in 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2020-21 – and managed 17 goals this season as Tottenham qualified for the Champions League.

Spurs team-mate Son Heung-min shared the accolade for the most Premier League goals with Liverpool's Mohamed Salah this season, the pair scoring 23 goals each.

Jurgen Klopp looks set to add more firepower to his attack at Anfield, with Nunez close to joining Liverpool for an initial fee of £64million (€75m) from Benfica.

Nunez has scored 48 goals in 85 games for Benfica in all competitions and averaged 1.2 goals every 90 minutes in the Portuguese Primeira Liga last season.

Meanwhile, Pep Guardiola bolstered his own wealth of attacking options with the Premier League champions Manchester City by triggering Haaland's release clause at Borussia Dortmund.

The Norway international scored 86 goals in 89 games for Dortmund since joining from Salzburg in January 2020, averaging a goal every 84 minutes across all competitions.

Kane cannot wait to compete with the duo next season as the Premier League adds more talismanic talent to their ranks.

 

"Look, I think the battle for the Golden Boot is always tough," Kane said at a pre-match news conference while on Nations League duty with England on Monday. 

"The Premier League has produced some top strikers around the world for a number of years now.

"I think every season I've been playing it's always been a tough battle to win that Golden Boot and it's no different.

"You expect the top strikers to want to play in the Premier League and with those two new signings, that's gonna be the case.

"I think it helps me as a player to have good competition, it drives me to improve and get better. I look forward to the challenge."

The build-up to Kane's 2021-22 campaign was filled with distraction as City tried and failed to secure the services of the England striker, attempting to replace the void left by Sergio Aguero at the Etihad Stadium.

Kane will likely have a smoother pre-season this time around and will look to utilise that to prepare for another campaign under Spurs head coach Antonio Conte.

 

"I try and focus on myself to begin with. Going into any season I have things I want to achieve and goals I want to reach," he added.

"I try not to focus too much on other players in that aspect, I can't control what they do.

"But what I will do is continue to work hard and improve and after this game have a nice break but then look forward to what will be a tough pre-season.

"And then I'll get ready for the new season as I have done for the last seven, eight years now."

Erling Haaland has revealed that Riyad Mahrez told him to sign for Manchester City last year, and the striker is also looking forward to playing with Phil Foden.

The Premier League champions announced on May 10 that an agreement was in place to sign Haaland from Borussia Dortmund after triggering his reported €60million (£51.2m) release clause, and Haaland has now officially put pen to paper on a five-year contract at the Etihad Stadium, with the deal to go through on July 1.

Haaland scored 86 goals in 89 games for Dortmund upon joining from Salzburg in January 2020, averaging a goal every 84 minutes across all competitions.

The 21-year-old was pictured with Mahrez while on holiday in Greece in 2021, and Haaland told City's official website that the Algeria international had spoken to him about moving to Manchester at the time.

"He told me to come to City!" he said in the interview published on Monday. "He was right about that. He said some good things about the club."

Haaland also expressed his excitement at the prospect of linking up with another highly-rated young player in Foden.

The England international recorded 11 assists in 45 games in all competitions for City last season, while creating 63 chances overall and 18 big chances, which is an opportunity from which a goal would normally be expected.

 

"I have been watching a lot of City games for as long as I can remember. Of course, then I also watched Phil and he is an amazing player," Haaland said.

"He is still a talent because he is still young, but he is an amazing player.

"He still has to develop and then we can really talk."

Even when Jack Grealish charged into the penalty area in the 87th at the Santiago Bernabeu last month and saw his shot cleared off the line by Ferland Mendy, there seemed no way Manchester City wouldn't be in the Champions League final.

They were already 1-0 up in the semi-final second leg, 5-3 up on aggregate. Real Madrid had three minutes plus stoppage time to turn things around – even for a side that produced some memorable comebacks en route to the semi-finals, turning things around looked impossible.

Yet we all know how the tale unfolded in a matter of minutes, with City's Champions League aspirations dissolving for another season.

Over the course of the two legs, City were comfortably the better team and yet to failed to advance through to the final in Paris, where Madrid went on to beat Liverpool 1-0.

City's failure served to highlight a key deficiency in their squad.

Whether that's fair or not is up for debate, because they have since gone on to win a fourth Premier League title in five years, and no one would've questioned the legitimacy of them seeing off Madrid, but when the victor is led by the type of figure the loser is lacking, it's an easy conclusion to jump to.

Karim Benzema may not have been at his unplayable best in last month's second leg, but he won and converted the ultimately decisive penalty, and the effectiveness with which he led the line in the first leg ensured Madrid were still in with a shout upon the return to Spain.

City will now hope they have such a goalscoring talisman in Erling Haaland.

A month after confirming an agreement was in place for Haaland, City announced on Monday that the prolific striker has put pen to paper on a five-year deal that will officially go through on July 1.

City are apparently set to pay £51.3million (€60m) to Borussia Dortmund for his transfer. Even when you consider the apparently significant agents' fees et cetera, it's difficult to see this as anything other than a bargain for City.

The dust may now have settled on City's recent collapse in the Spanish capital, but it's hard not to look at the deal through the prism of Champions League failure because of what will now be expected – rather than hoped for – with a player like Haaland in the team.

When trying to understand what has specifically gone wrong for City in the Champions League since Guardiola was hired, most people seem to have different opinions. Some might point to an apparent lack of on-field leaders, others highlight wastefulness at crucial moments, and of course there are many who have bemoaned Pep's dreaded "overthinking".

The idea of there being a lack of on-field leaders has always seemed wide of the mark, while no one can accuse Guardiola of overcomplicating his selections against Madrid – even if they did try to claim that, City were on course for the final until the 90th minute of the second leg.

Similarly, wastefulness is something most clubs can be accused of at one time or another and, in fact, across all the Champions League ties from which City have been eliminated under Guardiola, they have scored 17 times from 16.99 expected goals (xG). Granted, there were occasions where they didn't score as often as they should have, but over time it evens itself out.

Yet perhaps this is where Haaland can make the difference. Sure, City's xG has evened out over the unsuccessful ties in question, but with a striker as freakishly deadly as the Norwegian, there becomes a greater opportunity to finish chances that maybe you wouldn't generally expect to.

Since his Bundesliga debut on January 18, 2020, Haaland has scored 86 goals in 89 games for Dortmund in all competitions, averaging a goal every 84 minutes.

Only Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski (123 goals in 108 games) boasts a better scoring rate over that period among players from Europe's top five leagues.

Despite struggling with injuries in the 2021-22 season, he still managed 29 goals in 30 games for BVB, including a strike in his final game. Twenty-one of those goals were scored via his favoured left foot, three came via his right and the other five were headers.

One thing you cannot accuse City of is being ineffective when it comes to controlling football matches and creating chances – they wouldn't have enjoyed the success they have in the Premier League, under intense pressure from an incredible Liverpool side, if not.

But in knockout ties when there is such a limited amount of time to respond to setbacks or make amends for certain mistakes, whether that's defensive or in front of goal, the value of the greatest strikers can shine through even more: Benzema showed that against City.

While there are likely to be stylistic compatibility questions to be asked regarding City and Haaland, particularly given the Premier League champions haven't really played with an out-and-out striker for a couple of years now, they suddenly have arguably the finest finisher of his generation in their arsenal.

If Haaland isn't the final piece of the puzzle in City's quest for a maiden Champions League crown, Guardiola might as well give up.

Erling Haaland believes he has joined the right club to fulfil his ambitions after Manchester City officially confirmed the striker's arrival on Monday.

City announced on May 10 that an agreement was in place to sign Haaland from Borussia Dortmund after triggering his reported €75million (£64.2m) release clause.

The Norway international has now officially put pen to paper on a five-year contract at the Etihad Stadium, with that deal to go through on July 1.

Haaland had been one of Europe's most sought-after players and follows in the footsteps of his father Alf-Inge, who played for City between 2000 and 2003.

He scored 86 goals in 89 games for Dortmund upon joining from Salzburg in January 2020, averaging a goal every 84 minutes across all competitions.

Indeed, only Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski (123 goals in 108 games) boasts a better scoring rate over that period among players from Europe's top five leagues.

And after making the switch to the Premier League champions, Haaland is hopeful that his goals will lead to trophies under the management of Pep Guardiola.

"This is a proud day for me and my family," he told City's official website. "I have always watched City and have loved doing so in recent seasons. 

"You can't help but admire their style of play, it’s exciting and they create a lot of chances, which is perfect for a player like me. 

"There are so many world-class players in this squad and Pep is one of the greatest managers of all time, so I believe I am in the right place to fulfil my ambitions. 

"I want to score goals, win trophies and improve as a footballer and I am confident I can do that here. This is a great move for me and I can't wait to get started in pre-season."

Haaland won two Austrian Bundesliga titles during his time with Salzburg and the DFB-Pokal in 2020-21 across his two-and-a-half seasons at Dortmund.

The prolific striker struggled with injuries in the 2021-22 season, yet he still managed 29 goals in 30 games in all competitions for BVB, including a strike in his final game.

Kylian Mbappe, Vinicius Junior and Erling Haaland are the three most valuable players in world football, according to research group CIES Football Observatory.

Mbappe comes in as the most valuable having had a stellar season with Paris Saint-Germain, with 60 goal involvements (39 goals, 21 assists) in 46 games in all competitions.

Vinicius won the LaLiga and Champions League double with Real Madrid, while Haaland is soon to make a lucrative move from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester City after scoring 86 goals in 89 games during his time in Germany.

Mbappe turned down a move to Madrid to sign a new three-year deal with PSG last month, and the France international and World Cup winner is valued at an estimated €205.6million (£175.7m) by the CIES.

 

Vinicius is second at €185.5m (£158.3m), while Haaland supposedly has a value of €152.9m (£130.4m) despite costing City just €60m (£51m) thanks to a release clause.

The rest of the top 10 includes Barcelona trio Pedri, Frenkie de Jong and Ferran Torres, City's Phil Foden and Ruben Dias, Dortmund's Jude Bellingham and Liverpool's Luis Diaz.

CIES' research is based on a range of measures such as age, value of club, level of player performance and inflation.

The CIES report states: "The statistical model to estimate the transfer values for players from teams of the five major European leagues was built from a sample of 1,790 paid transfers carried out between July 2012 and January 2020.

"The correlation between the sums paid and estimated is greater than 80 per cent. This shows that the variables taken into account explain more than four-fifths of the gaps in the level of fees paid for transfers included in the model."

 

Top 10 valued players in world football (according to CIES Football Observatory)
1. Kylian Mbappe (PSG) - €205.6m (£175.7m)
2. Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid) - €185.5m (£158.3m)
3. Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund) - €152.9m (£130.4m)
4. Pedri (Barcelona) - €135.1m (£115.4m)
5. Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund) - €133.7m (£114.2m)
6. Phil Foden (Man City) - €124.0m (£105.9m)
7. Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona) - €112.5m (£96.1m)
8. Luis Diaz (Liverpool) - €110.1m (£94.0m)
9. Ruben Dias (Man City) - €109.6m (£93.6m)
10. Ferran Torres (Barcelona) - €109.5m (£93.5m)

The dominoes are starting to fall as Manchester United begin to carry out their transfer window plans.

Erik ten Hag's hire has inevitably led to another squad overhaul, and the rest of the market is in some way connected to who leaves and arrives at Old Trafford this off-season.

Reports suggest one of those arrivals could make for a reunion between the new manager and a former player of his.

TOP STORY – MANCHESTER UNITED MOVE ON FRENKIE DE JONG

New Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag is looking to reunite with Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong,   according to Fabrizio Romano.

After announcing the departures of Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba, United are moving quickly for replacements and have reportedly commenced discussions with the Blaugrana.

While it is understood De Jong would like to remain with Barcelona amid their own rebuild under Xavi, it could ultimately be dependent on the club.

Although De Jong reportedly desires Champions League football, it could be a moot point if Manchester United meet a £72.5million (€85m) asking price. 

ROUND-UP

– Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah would prefer to join a Premier League rival at the end of next season if a new deal cannot be agreed upon, per the Athletic.

– Chelsea have opened talks with Sevilla over the potential transfer of highly rated France defender Jules Kounde, according to Sport.

– Manchester City remain keen on signing England midfielder Kalvin Phillips but Leeds United want to retain the player after securing Premier League safety, the Sun reports.

Real Madrid are looking to sign Jude Bellingham, but Borussia Dortmund are not willing to sell the player until the end of next season, Bild is reporting.

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