Manchester United edge closer to Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland... on one condition - Paper Round
Manchester United leap to the front of the queue for Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland - but will have to qualify for next season's Champions League to secure the signing. Elsewhere, Xavi has decided against Barcelona signing Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez could be reuniting with a former club and Nat Phillips is ready to leave Liverpool in search of first-team football.
Dortmund's Norwegian forward Erling Braut Haaland reacts after the end of the German first division Bundesliga football match Borussia Dortmund vs SpVgg Greuther Fuerth in Dortmund, on December 15, 2021.
Manchester United have managed to leapfrog their transfer rivals in the chase for Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland. Bild (via the Sun) reveal that the Premier League side are the only "serious bidder" and the only club "heavily interested in securing his signature". The report states United's pursuit relies on one very important condition: the Red Devils must qualify for next season's edition of the Champions League. Haaland is expected to leave Dortmund next summer and has a cut-price release clause of £64 million, which becomes active at the end of the season.
Paper Round's view: Manchester United will consider this season a failure if they do not qualify for the Champions League, but it would be even more disastrous if that meant they missed out on signing Haaland. Top four is not out of reach. It seems like Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea will be a lock for the top three, so there is one more spot for Arsenal, West Ham United, Man Utd and Tottenham Hotspur to battle for. Anyway... this report does not make too much sense. Surely every elite club in Europe is "heavily interested" in signing Haaland. You would be stupid if you didn't try to sign him.
Xavi has told Barcelona that they should not try and sign Paul Pogba this summer, despite the fact that the Frenchman will be available on a free once his current contract at Manchester United expires at the end of the season. Pogba's agent Mino Raiola reportedly met with the Catalan club this week to discuss major clients - Pogba and Erling Haaland. The Borussia Dortmund striker is still a top target for next summer, but Xavi believes that Pogba "does not fit the club's profile" and has instructed Barca president Joan Laporta to identify alternative transfer targets in midfield.
Paper Round's view: Xavi was seemingly given a huge amount of control when he was brought in by Barcelona. It's a massive job and he has decided that he wants to play a major part in recruitment on top of the day-to-day coaching aspect of his role. Pogba is obviously a top-class player - despite his critics in England - but realistically, he would not be a sensible signing for Barcelona. Yes - he is available for 'free' but that excludes signing-on fees, bonuses and an incredibly high salary. Barca are in a financial mess and are going through a rebuild, so should concentrate on low-risk, low-cost players for the time being.
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Sanchez set for Barca return
Alexis Sanchez could be set for a shock return to Barcelona as the Catalan club look to improve their attacking options following the retirement of Sergio Aguero. Spanish media outlet Sport state that Barca are in "advanced" talks with Sanchez and his parent club Inter Milan, in a complicated deal that would see Luuk de Jong - who is on loan at the Camp Nou from Sevilla - trade places with the Chilean. Xavi's ideal signing would be Manchester City forward Ferran Torres, but it is unlikely that the Blaugrana can afford him. Therefore, Sanchez is being dubbed the "low-cost alternative".
Paper Round's view: Sanchez needs the opportunity to resurrect his career and Barcelona could be the perfect landing spot for that. The Chile international has struggled since leaving Arsenal back in January 2018 and has failed to find his form at both Manchester United and Inter. Barca are in a tough spot at the moment and could use an experienced forward like Sanchez to return on a short-term deal and help guide them back into the European qualification spots. It would be a low risk, decent move for both parties - especially as Ferran Torres seems very unrealistic with Barca's current financial situation.
Nat Phillips could leave Liverpool in January in a bid to play first-team football elsewhere. The Sun report that the Merseyside club have slapped a £15 million price tag on their defender, who has made just four appearances so far this season. West Ham United have been linked with a move for Phillips as the Hammers look to add some depth in defence to their depleted squad. Angelo Ogbonna and Kurt Zouma have both suffered injuries, meaning David Moyes is likely to dip into the January market for a centre-back. Newcastle United are also looking at Phillips as they look to strengthen in all areas.
Paper Round's view: Phillips is 24 now and has only managed to break into the Liverpool team during their defensive crisis last season. His recent performance against AC Milan at San Siro proved he is good enough to be a starter elsewhere, so it is probably the right time for Phillips to move on. West Ham have shown that they are an ambitious club in the past two seasons and are competing in the Europa League. Phillips would be a solid addition to their squad and would probably be given the chance to be a starter in east London while Ogbonna and Zouma are both sidelined.