No player defines the Sheikh Mansour era at Manchester City like Sergio Aguero. The Argentine striker’s £38 million signing from Atletico Madrid a decade ago was a statement of intent from the new owners and Aguero delivered on that intent by scoring the goal that famously secured the club’s first Premier League trophy.
Aguero’s time at the Etihad Stadium appears to be coming to an end, though, with 32-year-old out of contract at the end of the season and Barcelona rumoured to be interested. What’s more, injuries have taken their toll on the striker. Aguero has started just two Premier League games this term, forcing Pep Guardiola to find alternative figures (like Kevin de Bruyne) to lead his attacking line.
Even if Sergio Aguero signs a contract extension to keep him at the Etihad Stadium beyond the summer, City must enter the market for a new centre forward and Erling Haaland must be their number one target. The Norwegian is the goalscorer Guardiola must build the next great Manchester City team around.
Along with Kylian Mbappe, Haaland is at the vanguard of the sport’s next great superstars. He is a Ballon d’Or winner in the making, having taken the Bundesliga and the Champions League by storm over the last two seasons. Haaland is only 20 years old, but plays with the maturity and irrepressible drive of someone much older and much more experienced.
There’s no knowing what his ceiling could be. This is a player who has scored 35 goals in 34 Bundesliga games since arriving at Borussia Dortmund from Red Bull Salzburg 12 months ago. Haaland had his pick of Europe’s biggest and best clubs having caught the eye in the Champions League for the Austrian side, but recognised the first team opportunities he would receive at the Westfalenstadion.
Haaland’s decision to join Dortmund over Manchester United, who made a big effort to lure the player, has been vindicated, such was the astonishing success he enjoyed in 2020, but the Norwegian already looks ready for a higher platform. A €75 million release clause in Haaland’s Dortmund contract will become active in the summer of 2022 and at that price he would have every elite club queuing round the block to make their sales pitch.
If City have the chance to jump that queue by making an offer for Haaland, Borussia Dortmund can’t refuse, they should take it. The opportunity sign a generational talent doesn’t come along very often. While City would likely have to pay a club record fee to sign the Norwegian, he could form the apex of their attack for a decade, just like Aguero did.
Haaland is the complete striker. He is good with the ball at his feet, lightning quick, strong in the air and impeccable in his decision making. Guardiola isn’t exactly known for favouring out-and-out centre forwards in the mould of the Norwegian, but Haaland has the skill set to play however City ask him to. He is so much more than the targetman his frame suggests he might be.
As well as Manchester City have played in recent matches with a fluid, interchangeable attack that sees de Bruyne, Phil Foden and Ilkay Gundogan take it in turns to break into the penalty box, Guardiola needs a new centre forward to build around. Finding such a player must be a priority for the summer window.
Gabriel Jesus is a useful squad member, but lacks the killer instinct of someone needed to fire a team to titles. Raheem Sterling can be used through the middle, but is more effective when cutting inside from the wing. Meanwhile, Ferran Torres has proven himself as a ‘False Nine,’ but the young Spaniard isn’t yet the finished article.
Despite his age, Haaland is the finished article and is ready to make the step up to a team like Manchester City. He would likely thrive in the Premier League. A move to Manchester looked to be in the offing for Haaland not so long ago. Guardiola must make sure the Norwegian ends up in sky blue, though, and not red.