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Messi inadvertently moves Haaland closer to Real Madrid

The idea of goal machine Erling Haaland moving to Los Blancos has been in the planning long before he joined Manchester City.

The idea of goal machine Erling Haaland moving to Los Blancos has been in the planning long before he joined Manchester City.

When Lionel Messi symbolically clinched his third The Best award, all eyes and cameras turned towards Alf-Inge Haaland. The father of the expected winner had arrived at the FIFA gala with a smile. “Of course... in any [club],” he cheerfully remarked when asked by Spanish reporters if his son could play for Real Madrid, as he made his way to his seat at the Eventim Apollo Auditorium in London. This comment, made prior to the announcement of the voting results, sparked a conversation that concerns Los Blancos.

According to information obtained by AS, in the Manchester City striker’s inner circle, there was a discussion about the need to “move to a club like Madrid” to gain even more spotlight. The goal: to ensure that global recognition aligns with individual performance. This debate highlighted the appropriateness of donning the white shirt for Haaland to reach a new dimension, not only in terms of sports but also in the media sphere.

Messi The Best win sparks Haaland future debate

Upon leaving the Apollo, Alfie’s smile underwent a notable transformation, becoming much more perplexed and ironic than joyful.

“It’s fair [that Messi won], because it was through a voting system,” he said. There was actually a tie at 48 points, with Mbappé on 35, but the Argentine gathered more votes from national team captains. “So, it’s fair, yes.

“But it will be challenging to replicate a season like Erling’s, with the team winning everything and him setting all the records. Best of luck to anyone trying to surpass that record. Not getting rewarded? That’s how it is.”

The sentiment on 15 January within Erling’s inner circle is that, at Madrid, what he achieved would indeed have been sufficient to claim the accolade.

Lionel Messi deja atrás a Cristiano y se convierte en el Máximo ganador de los Premios The Best FIFA
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Lionel Messi picks up The FIFA Best Award.

Haaland and Messi seasons compared

While Messi secured the Ligue 1 title with PSG and the League Cup with Inter Miami, Haaland stood as the backbone of City’s historic treble. Premier League, FA Cup, and the coveted Champions League - the crown that the Citizens’ project had been seeking since Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan arrived on the blue side of Manchester in 2008. Successes built on the striker’s goals: 36 goals in the English league (breaking the record held by Shearer and Andy Cole, to which Alfie Haaland alluded), 12 in the top continental competition (also the top scorer), and a total of 52 goals (accompanied by nine assists in 53 matches).

A résumé that, despite its impressiveness, did not earn him his first Ballon d’Or or his first The Best award. The golden accolade didn’t spark debates as the Qatar World Cup seemingly tipped the scales in Messi’s favor, but the FIFA award solely assesses the calendar year, and once again, Haaland settled for the silver medal. We can look at the voting choices to see why.

How much would Haaland cost Real Madrid?

Whether Haaland would have secured the golden trophy while at Real Madrid or not is mere speculation, but the sentiment within the Leeds-born footballer’s circle is that the chances would have been higher. This brings us to the always tricky terrain of the transfer market. It is no secret that Kylian Mbappé is a primary target for Real Madrid heading into the 2024-25 season. As we previously reported, the contractual offer has already been conveyed to him, and the decision of the Bondy native is expected within two weeks.

However, the Haaland option is still on the table. It always has been. Rafaela Pimenta, the player’s agent, as Mino Raiola did before, always leaves the door open for her clients “to choose their own future.” If the PSG star decides to continue in Paris, there would be a shift towards the Norwegian giant. Especially considering that the exit clause for teams outside the Premier League is “closer to 100 than 200 million,” as detailed by this newspaper. An amount more than manageable for a Madrid with such a “financially sound” situation that could “consider signing both Mbappé and Haaland.”

In 2022, before Mbappé made a surprising u-turn with a renewal that even surprised Florentino Pérez (“this is not my Mbappé”), the bridges between Madrid and Haaland were more than established. However, the presence of Benzema and the global sense that the French superstar would eventually don the white jersey expedited Erling’s decision to join City. Those good relations persist, though. Pimenta was invited to the honor box to witness the Madrid-Braga Champions League match, and there have been reports that by Josep Pedrerol that “a relative of Haaland calls Madrid every week.”

Contact between the parties exists, and the feeling from those close to Erling is that him playing as part of the home team in the stunning new Santiago Bernabéu, enhanced after The Best gala, would be another step in the striker’s career. And from a sporting perspective, the suitability of the signing is beyond debate.