Mino Raiola’s high-profile tour of clubs last week has increased speculation that Erling Haaland could be on the market this summer.
Yet, whilst such a public courting of potential suitors will have done nothing to silence conjecture over Haaland’s future, it is currently Borussia Dortmund who hold the cards over the 20-year-old.
Haaland recently reiterated the length of his contract at Dortmund, whilst Michael Zorc, the club’s sporting director, has stated Raiola is aware of their stance on the player.
Reports from Germany claim that Dortmund have set their asking price for the player at €150million.
Whilst this may well drop a little should they fail to qualify for the Champions League, Manchester United know from their experiences of negotiating for Jadon Sancho last summer that Dortmund are a club of their word.
Raiola said earlier this season that only 10 clubs in world football could afford Haaland, and his trip to Spain saw him supposedly meet two of them – Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Yet, should Dortmund’s asking price for the player be accurate, then the controversial agent’s trip to meet Barca could well have been a futile one.
Barca’s debt is believed to be over €1bn, with a January financial report revealing debts reaching as much as €1.2bn.
The report showed the Catalan giants owed a total of €126m to other clubs, which stemmed from several transfer deals that the club completed in recent years, although this is slightly offset by the club themselves being owed €46m from other sides.
With the club having had to negotiate a delay of payments with its creditors due to the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on club finances, it seems unlikely that they will be in a position to spend a large sum of money on Haaland, especially with some of those payments only being delayed until this summer.
Reports from Spanish outlet El Mundo have claimed that €730m of Barca’s debt is due in the short-term, with €266m owed to the banks by June 30, including €90m to Goldman Sachs – and it is difficult to see banks being too lenient with the money owed.
The prospect of Barca negotiating a lower initial fee for Haaland in exchange for performance-related payments being added to the deal seems a remote one, with United failing to do similar with Dortmund for Sancho last summer.
Alongside this, Spanish journalist Gerald Romero has claimed Barca were informed they would have to pay a total of €40m to Raiola and Haaland’s father, former Man City player Alf-Inge, making it even harder to see how they would be able to finance a deal for the forward.
Of course, clubs often have ways of financing transfers, but, even if Barca find a way to come up with that large amount of money, their current spending on wages totals 74 per cent of the club’s income.
Former interim president of Barca Carles Tusquets said in December that the players would not be paid in full for January and described the club’s situation as ‘lousy’.
Signing a player like Haaland, who is likely to command huge wages, would only add to this amount and make it even harder for the club to try and pay off their debts.
Despite this, there does remain some hope for Barca should Haaland not leave this summer.
The forward has a reported minimum fee release clause in his contract that will come into force at the end of next season, and that will lower the amount clubs need to pay for his services.
In their current state, it remains to be seen whether Barca would be able to even afford that, with a number of much cheaper rumoured transfer targets falling by the wayside in the last 12 months, but the club are set to be given a large boost when fans are finally able to return to the Nou Camp.
Ronald Koeman said in January that the club are suffering from a lack of tourism alongside a lack of fans, and the figures seem to reflect this.
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Barca had hoped to make €56m from the return of fans this season, and that will likely increase next season, meaning the club’s financial situation should improve by next summer, provided fans are given the greenlight to attend matches in Spain.
If that is the case and Haaland remains at Dortmund, then United and City could well face increased competition for the striker’s signature.
For now, though, it is difficult to view Raiola’s negotiating with Barca as anything other than a publicity stunt.