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Football Reporting


Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe, Mohamed Salah and a clear transfer link in crucial week – Mark Jones

Oh it’s there alright. It’s looming.


You don’t get to find out what it is this early though, as this racket just doesn’t work like that, but it’s not like if it isn’t hiding in plain sight anyway.

It’s a bit like Mino Raiola in that sense, actually.

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Erling Haaland’s agent has been on a publicity tour in the past week, partly for his client and partly for himself, and while that has served to remind us all that ’tis soon to be transfer season, that also means we’re at the business end of the actual football as well.

And Champions League quarter-final week really is the business.

It is the time when your European hopes and dreams can soar or die, with the fact that there is still just the week between the first and second legs – and not the best part of a month as there is for the last-16 – making it extra special.

Raiola has been touring the clubs discussing potential transfer destinations for Haaland
Raiola has been touring the clubs discussing potential transfer destinations for Haaland

Yet this year there is a real sense that it is an elite set of players whose immediate futures will be the talk of the next week, when we won’t really be talking about the clubs they represent.

Three of them, Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Real Madrid, have all won the Champions League in the very recent past, as much as time is a strange construct these days.

Elsewhere Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City are desperate to win it, but they’ll have a few billion reasons to be just fine if they don’t. While Chelsea, Porto and Borussia Dortmund can all tell themselves they did well if they fall at this hurdle.

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It is the players where the glamour is then, particularly Haaland, Kylian Mbappe and Mohamed Salah, three of the very best footballers in the world and three players who know that the limelight = discussion, discussion = fame and fame = well, just about anything these days.

Of the trio, Salah can probably be separated and treated as a special case though.

It would after all be utterly unthinkable to imagine that neither one, or in fact both, of Haaland or Mbappe will be transferred in the next 15 months or so. Their age and rapidly expanding profiles will demand it, while Mbappe will be out of contract then anyway.

Salah has been linked with moves away from Liverpool
Salah has been linked with moves away from Liverpool

For Salah, 29 in June, the market might just have shifted and contracted at the wrong time, and the same can be said for his club.

Liverpool have the Egyptian contracted until 2023, but one of the interesting theories posited during their disappointing season is that last summer might well have been the year they expected to sell one of their big-hitters, if not Salah then perhaps Sadio Mane or Roberto Firmino.

That money could have been used to refresh a squad that had just won the Champions League and the Premier League in successive seasons, perhaps with another young, hungry attacker with the profile of the exciting Diogo Jota.

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Maybe Salah expected that to happen too, or at least he could be given the option of being the one who could go. A choice would have been nice and, he’d feel, deserved for a player of his remarkable ability.

His flirtations with the Spanish clubs have been well documented, but there’s a danger that they are now looking beyond him, across the dancefloor and to the bright young things from Paris and Scandinavia at the other end of the bar.

The Egyptian has unfinished business with Real Madrid
The Egyptian has unfinished business with Real Madrid

There’s also the distinct possibility that all Salah wants is a new Liverpool contract, the last huge payday of his career.

But chiefly he’ll just want to be talked about, and what better way to do that than by taking down Real Madrid in the Champions League, exacting revenge for that night in Kiev as he does so?

As for Haaland and Mbappe, well they really can be grouped together.

While Raiola might have to trawl the clubs in a bid to gauge just who will be willing and able to stump up the fee he requires for Haaland (oh, and Dortmund require too of course), Mbappe knows that everyone will come to him.

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The World Cup winner seems fairly relaxed about the possibility of another year in his home city, and having fallen one step short in the Champions League last season then there will be a fire burning within.

So can take down holders Bayern Munich? Can he leave an imprint on the collective consciousness in much the same way he did against Barcelona in the last round?

Mbappe has already shone in this season's Champions League
Mbappe has already shone in this season’s Champions League

You wouldn’t put it past him, and if he did then it would be another tale for the ages in his character arc.

If he didn’t, then another year in Paris and the next crack at the Champions League might also appeal ahead of what would be the most expensive free transfer ever. He’s only 22 and has time on his side.

At two years Mbappe’s junior you’d think Haaland would have that too, but that would reckon without the very special set of skills possessed by Raiola.

He’s already progressed the forward through his special transfersphere, and seems to be in a hurry – or is that a panic at the state of the market? – to complete another one if his actions of the past week are anything to go by.

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Should the Norse God of goalscoring leave Pep Guardiola frowning in the next week then you can only imagine the levels which Haaland-mania will reach. Raiola will start arriving for his talks in a gold plated limo, Alf-Inge with his head sticking out of the sunroof and holding a glass of bubbly.

Haaland is widely tipped to move this summer
Haaland is widely tipped to move this summer

And of the three it is Haaland Jnr who seems the most likely to move this summer, with that ever-looming presence no doubt keeping an eye on everything.

You know the one. They play in white and love this sort of thing.

Florentino Perez and Real Madrid won’t have a choice but to keep an eye on Salah this week of course, but they’ll also be looking at the younger models.

They can safely say that all three players have surely dreamed of playing for them one day, and will hold the weight of history and, yes, expectation, in their favour when it comes to transfer talks.

Because while all three players belong on this stage, Real will feel they own it.

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However outdated a view that may be, it comes in handy when the money starts flying around.

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