Barcelona eye Liverpool's Salah as alternative to Haaland
With Man City seemingly leading the race for Erling Braut Haaland's signature, Barça boss Xavi has given his thumbs-up to Mohamed Salah as a plan B.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta has promised head coach Xavi Hernández that he’ll have a world-class striker in his squad next season. The Catalans’ priority remains Erling Braut Haaland, but Laporta’s recent comments - "we want to do deals, but some are difficult" - have cast doubt on the feasibility of the signing.
Man City ahead of Barcelona in race for Haaland
Haaland is viewed at Barça as the ideal standard bearer for the club’s project for the next decade, but the problem with the Borussia Dortmund centre-forward is that he has a number of other suitors who are pushing hard for his signature, particularly Manchester City. Indeed, figures within the Camp Nou openly concede that City have stolen a march in the chase for Haaland’s services.
However, Laporta certainly hasn’t thrown in the towel just yet. Aside from his excellent relationship with Haaland’s agent, Mino Raiola, he has other factors working in his favour. For example, there’s the city itself - there’s no comparison between life in Barcelona and Manchester - and the fact that Barça have a history of helping its players to win the Ballon d’Or. City, who are yet to house a recipient of the award, cannot say the same.
Barcelona eyeing opportunity to snare Salah for 60-70m
But Laporta also has an ace up his sleeve if Haaland ends up choosing City. AS understands that Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah is being lined up as the alternative to the Norwegian. Both Xavi and director of football Mateu Alemany consider Salah as a perfect candidate to round off Barça’s new forward line if the club miss out on Haaland.
Although Salah isn’t strictly a number nine, he guarantees at least 30 goals a season, in addition to offering a huge amount of versatility in attack. While he normally starts on the right, he can operate in several forward positions. At 29, it's felt he still has another three or four years left at the very top level.
Salah has been dragging his feet on an extension to his Liverpool deal, which expires in June 2023, so Barça could take advantage to snap him up at a knockdown price. While Haaland's transfer fee and salary are likely to total around 350 million euros, Salah could be expected to require an initial outlay of between 60 and 70 million, given he could leave for free next year, plus around 100 million in wages across the next four seasons.
Positive early signs
Salah would complete a fearsome attracking trio alongside Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Adama Traoré, Ez Abde and Ferran Jutglà as high-class understudies. It also remains to be seen what happens with the futures of Ousmane Dembélé, Memphis Depay, Martin Braithwaite and Luuk de Jong. The first three are expected to depart in the summer, while there is an option to extend De Jong’s loan from Sevilla for another year.
This newspaper has learned that Barça have received positive initial feedback from Salah’s camp, with the player thought to be open to a new challenge after five years at Liverpool, and particularly attracted by the prospect of being the franchise player in Xavi’s Camp Nou project. It’s also worth noting that the coach himself has confirmed that the club haven’t received a negative response from any player sounded out. Barça have asked the forward for more time, but are aware that they can’t delay much beyond April.
The Egyptian’s arrival wouldn’t necessarily rule out the signing of Haaland further down the line. Raiola prefers shorter-term contracts lasting three or four years, so the 21-year-old could be available for a Barça swoop in the future, when Salah and Aubameyang are coming to the end of their careers.
Lewandowski Barcelona's plan C
If Haaland and Salah both fall through this summer, Barcelona also have a plan C that Xavi is very keen on: Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski. Although his credentials as a penalty box predator are not in doubt, though, the Pole would be a very short-term signing - on no more than a two-year contract - given that he’ll be 34 in August. A deal for Lewandowski is viewed at Barça as being difficult to do, not least because Paris Saint-Germain would be expected to provide competition for the striker’s signature.
A further option under consideration at Barça, albeit he’s a target viewed with less enthusiasm than Haaland, Salah and Lewandowski, is Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku. A pure centre-forward with a killer instinct, he's much admired in the Catalan capital, but everything would depend on how the Blues’ ownership saga develops in the coming months. The Belgian is under contract at Stamford Bridge until 2026, and would only be allowed to leave if a completely unsustainable situation develops in West London.