Prior to the announcement that Sergio Aguero would be leaving the Etihad Stadium at the end of the season upon the completion of his contract, conversations about Manchester City recruiting a new number nine in the forthcoming summer transfer window were already quite prominent. The club have been planning on reinforcing the position since last summer and ultimately decided to move the investment back to the summer of 2021, perhaps as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic or the fact their top targets were simply not available for the right price. Since yesterday's unexpected announcement, speculation has only intensified.
The strongest links have been to the most sought after footballer in the game at the moment. Erling Haaland, a childhood Manchester City fan and the son of former City captain Alfie Haaland. For several weeks, maybe even months, Pep Guardiola's side have been considered favourites to land the 20-year-old.
City's finances appear to be the healthiest in world football going into the summer transfer window, with the likes of Barcelona and others scuppered by the impacts of the pandemic and in a desperate need to sell players to even dream of signing players that would command the kind of fees the Norweigan will.
City obviously have the sentimental advantage with the Leeds-born Norway international, a known City fan over the years; a number of City-related content on Twitter liked during the Centurions season, pictured in City tops over the years, pictured at the League Cup final supporting City in 2014, and training in a #45 Mario Balotelli top in his younger days furthering the confidence many fans have in a deal being struck. It has also been confirmed in recent times that the player was part of a City fan page on Facebook up to as recently as a year or so ago and only left as a consequence of repeated questions asking when he was joining the Premier League side.
The idea that the club would allow the greatest striker in its history to leave at the end of the season, even with the potential fitness concerns, without having a deal for someone like Erling Haaland in the works is extremely hard to comprehend. That's not how City work. They're extremely meticulous and they probably have a rough idea of how their summer pursuit for a striker will pan out.
This morning, Simon Bajkowski of the Manchester Evening News reported that the club are confident of signing Haaland in the summer as Aguero's successor. The ever-reliable Pol Ballus then reported in the afternoon that those within the offices at the City Football Academy do not want to see a repeat of this season, where Guardiola has been without a recognised number nine for much of the season, and see this season as the right time to 'bet on a generational changeover'. Ballus added that Haaland and Kane were top of the shopping list. This news further enhanced by Paul Hirst from the Times reporting that City will consider making a bid for England captain Harry Kane if they are unable to persuade Borussia Dortmund to sell their prodigious young centre-forward.
City's list of premier targets to replace 'the legend' of the club as Guardiola has said in recent times is becoming ever-clearer as the days pass and we approach the highly anticipated summer transfer window. City will push hard for Erling Haaland, but they'll have options, as they always do, should it be necessary.