Agent Mino Raiola's attempt to create a buzz around Erling Haaland is no surprise to Manchester United. ESPN's Insider Notebook has the latest.
Jump to: Haaland would skyrocket City's record wage bill | U.S. youngster Konrad can leave Barcelona | Torres battle heats up | Arsenal want £15m for wantaway Torreira | West Ham hope Europe seals deal for Lingard | Football unites behind Rodriguez
Man United unsurprised by Raiola's Haaland road show
Agent Mino Raiola's Erling Haaland road show (a move that looks like a precursor to a summer exit, says ESPN's Gab Marcotti) has led some Manchester United insiders to feel they were right to cool their interest in the striker before he signed for Borussia Dortmund. Sources told ESPN it came as no surprise to see Raiola and Haaland's father Alf-Inge visit Barcelona and Real Madrid in the leadup to Dortmund's 2-1 Champions League quarterfinal first-leg defeat at Manchester City on Tuesday.
United are among a host of elite clubs who remain interested in Haaland, either this summer or in 2022 when his release clause at Dortmund becomes active, and sources told ESPN Dortmund value Haaland at €180 million.
Privately, United and Manchester City have distanced themselves from agreeing to a fee that high amid the coronavirus pandemic, with club finances across the world suffering a significant hit. City revealed the full impact of COVID-19 on the club by reporting a net loss of £126m for the 2019-20 season, a year after reporting a profit of £10.1m.
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer visited Haaland in the run-up to his departure from Salzburg in 2020, but club bosses, including executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, were never comfortable with the terms put forward by agent Raiola and Haaland's father. Talks with Haaland's camp led United to believe his representatives wanted to stay in control of the youngster's future by including a release clause in his contract -- something Dortmund accepted before his move to Germany. United's concern was that should Haaland be a success, he could be touted around Europe's biggest clubs at any point, with the club unable to do anything about it.
Dortmund want to keep Haaland, who has scored 21 goals in 22 Bundesliga games this season, for at least one more year, but their struggle to qualify for the Champions League has raised the possibility they may have to listen to offers for their star striker this summer. The Bundesliga side are seven points off the final remaining qualifying spot for next season's European competition, with seven matches remaining.
Dortmund's interim manager Edin Terzic was asked whether the speculation following Raiola's meetings with Real Madrid and Barcelona had become a distraction and said: "I can't stop Mino Raiola and Alfie Haaland from travelling.
"It's up to them, they're grown-ups and they can choose whatever they want to do. I just can have an impact on Erling and we are happy to have him in our team." -- Rob Dawson
Man City's difficulty in adding Haaland to £351m wage bill
Manchester City's escalating wage bill is a severe stumbling block in their attempt to sign Haaland this summer with Kevin De Bruyne becoming the highest-paid player in the Premier League this week, less than 24 hours after the club outstripped Manchester United by reporting the league's biggest-ever salary outlay.
City's annual report for the year ending June 30, 2020, confirmed a wage bill of £351m for Pep Guardiola and his players, in addition to losses of £126m. The wages figure, which represented an increase of £35.7m on the 2018-19 season when City paid large bonuses for winning all three domestic trophies, eclipsed the previous Premier League record of £332m set by United in the same season.
Despite the club's salary commitments, the City hierarchy sanctioned a new four-year deal for midfielder De Bruyne which sources told ESPN is worth up to £90m (£430,000 a week) over the duration of the contract. City are also in talks with Raheem Sterling, whose £200,000-a-week deal expires in June 2023, and sources said the England forward is likely to expect similar terms to De Bruyne's contract in order to commit his future to the club. With City still on course to win four trophies this season, including the Champions League, the wage bill for this campaign could be substantially inflated by bonuses for success in each competition.
The departure of Sergio Aguero when his contract expires this summer will save City £250,000 aw eek in wages, but any move to sign Haaland from Borussia Dortmund would see the club faced with the prospect of paying the forward in excess of £500,000 a week to fend off competition from a host of clubs, including Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Chelsea.
And although City are confident the club's finances will recover quickly from the impact of the pandemic, the cost of landing Haaland and adding his salary to an already sky-high wage bill may prove too difficult. -- Mark Ogden
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U.S. teen Konrad can leave Barcelona
Barcelona will listen to offers for Konrad de la Fuente this summer with several clubs in Spain and Germany interested in the United States winger, sources told ESPN.
De la Fuente, 19, made his first team debut for Barca earlier this season in the Champions League and received his first cap for the United States men's national team in November. His contract at Camp Nou expires in 2022, but the Catalan club have an option to extend it until 2024.
The Miami native has been training regularly with Ronald Koeman's side since last summer but has spent more time with the B-team in recent weeks, who are vying for promotion to the second tier of Spanish football.
Barca rate De la Fuente highly, but his path to first team football is blocked. With Lionel Messi, Ousmane Dembele, Ansu Fati, Antoine Griezmann and Francisco Trincao, among others, all ahead of him in the pecking order, minutes have been hard to come by. Meanwhile, there's a feeling he, along with other players like Alex Collado, need to play at a higher level than the Spanish third division next season.
Coupled with Barca's need to raise money for incoming transfers, sources said De la Fuente is seen as a player who could command a reasonable fee this summer. Barca would prefer a permanent sale to a loan, although they want to include a buyback option in any potential deal. -- Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens
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ESPN FC's Alejandro Moreno explains how Atletico Madrid must be feeling after seeing their La Liga lead collapse.
Torres seeks move as Europe's top clubs hope for a deal
Torres is keen on a move to one of Europe's elite clubs after impressing during two seasons as a regular at Villarreal. The 24-year-old, who has been capped seven times by Spain, has a release clause of around €65m, but sources told ESPN that offers closer to €50m may be accepted.
Manchester United and Real Madrid are among the clubs interested. United, according to sources, are particularly interested in signing a left-footed centre-back. Torres fits that criteria but is unproven in the Premier League, although there is an acceptance at United there are not many available players who tick every box this summer.
Torreira set for exit door as Arsenal demand £15m
Arsenal are sympathetic to Lucas Torreira's desire to leave the club this summer but will demand a fee in the region of £15m to sanction his departure, sources told ESPN. The 25-year-old, on loan at Atletico Madrid from Arsenal, last week told ESPN Argentina he wants to return to Boca Juniors in South America following the death of his mother due to the coronavirus.
Manager Mikel Arteta said on Wednesday that "it is not the moment to make any decisions" over Torreira's future, but sources told ESPN the club are willing to listen to offers given the need to raise funds through player exits.
There is an acceptance Arsenal will have to take a loss on the £26m paid to Sampdoria in 2018, but Torreira still has two years remaining on his contract and the club are keen to recoup as much of that fee as possible.
There is no option to buy in his loan agreement with Atletico Madrid, and in any case, they are not interested in a permanent transfer. -- James Olley
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Craig Burley wonders when Mikel Arteta will face the same pressure as his colleagues throughout the Premier League.
West Ham hope European football seals Lingard deal
West Ham's chances of signing Jesse Lingard from Manchester United depend in part on whether they qualify for Europe next season, sources told ESPN. The Hammers are keen to bring the 28-year-old to London Stadium on a permanent basis after he scored six goals in eight Premier League games and earned a recall to the England squad for the first time in 18 months.
United value Lingard at around £25m but the winger has just 12 months remaining on his contract. West Ham would be aided in their efforts to attract Lingard if they qualified for the Champions League -- they are in fourth place with eight games remaining -- but the level of European competition also has important financial considerations.
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Sources told ESPN the club owe "significant" sums in staggered payments for previous transfers, and although this will not prevent them from signing players in the summer window, it may restrict their level of activity.
While Europa League qualification would exceed preseason expectations, an improbable Champions League spot would bring considerable financial reward and make completing a deal for Lingard much more attainable. -- James Olley
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Football unites behind Misa Rodriguez
Real Madrid Femenino goalkeeper Misa Rodriguez has thanked players and clubs from across the football world for the wave of support she received after facing misogynistic comments on Twitter this week.
Rodriguez, 21, shared photos of herself and Marco Asensio, both celebrating and grabbing the Real Madrid shirt, with the words "misma pasion" (same passion) after Asensio scored in Madrid's 3-1 Champions League quarterfinal first-leg win over Liverpool on Tuesday.
She deleted the tweet when it attracted sexist and misogynist replies, but Asensio then reposted the same images and text, adding: "Don't let anything or anyone stop you from saying what you think."
The "same passion" message was later picked up by Real Madrid teammates Marcelo, Casemiro and Vinicius and went on to become a trending topic worldwide, echoed by clubs including Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Manchester United and Tottenham.
Rodriguez returned to Twitter to comment for the first time on Thursday, writing: "Thank you from the bottom of my heart."
Sources close to the goalkeeper told ESPN that she did not plan to make any further statement about what had happened, and was instead focused on her Spain national team callup to face Netherlands and Mexico this week.
Real Madrid Femenino are third in Spain's first division, 13 points behind leaders Barca, in their first season since being officially formed in July 2020. -- Alex Kirkland