Erling Haaland hints at Real Madrid move by refusing to rule out Man City exit

Erling Haaland

Erling Haaland has refused to close the door on a move to Real Madrid in the future despite insisting he is “really happy” at Manchester City.

Real are expected to sign France striker Kylian Mbappé on a free transfer from Paris St-Germain this summer but are long-term admirers of Haaland.

City beat Madrid to sign the Norwegian goal machine from Borussia Dortmund for £51 million in June 2022 but Real’s interest has never gone away.

Asked about the links with Real and whether he felt he had everything he needed at City to remain at the club in the longer-term in the build-up to their Champions League clash against Copenhagen, Haaland said: “I’m really happy, especially with the people that I’m surrounded with – the manager [Pep Guardiola], the directors, the board, they are a group of amazing people and I’m really happy, I have to say.

“If I say this now it’s probably going to be a massive headline … tomorrow you never know what the future brings, but I’m happy. You can write this but you also have to write everything I said before. I’m happy.”

Haaland – who scored his 28th goal of the campaign in City’s 3-1 win over Manchester United on Sunday – also dismissed recent reports from Madrid that he did not like Manchester as a city to live in. “Yeah I enjoy life, I enjoy life with my closest ones and I enjoy it [Manchester]. I don’t know what else to say.”

Haaland’s existing contract with City runs until June 2027 and contains a release clause reputedly worth at least £150m.

Telegraph Sport reported in October how the Premier League and European champions planned to open talks over a new deal for Haaland during the season.

But the 23-year-old refused to be drawn on a possible contract extension by insisting his focus was on winning more trophies with City over the coming months after last season’s extraordinary Treble success.

“My focus mainly now is on the pitch, there’s a lot of games, two days ago was the Manchester derby, now the Champions League [against Copenhagen], Sunday is Liverpool [at Anfield in the Premier League],” he added. “I think I should focus on that. I don’t think I should focus on anything else at the moment.”

I used to cry when I missed chances but now I’m stress free

There was a time, Haaland has said, when the sort of chance he missed in Sunday’s Manchester derby might have eaten him up.

“It was a challenge for me when I was young,” he explained. “I remember when I was young I would start crying if we lost and I missed a lot of chances. I’ve been working on it a lot but it’s been a challenge.”

All that mental work appears to be paying off. If Haaland was cut up about his shocking open-net miss from three yards that Gary Lineker described as perhaps “the worst miss I’ve ever seen at this level” he did not show it as he stroked home goal No 28 of the campaign later in the game to round off a 3-1 win over United.

Or at the press conference ahead of the second leg of City’s Champions League round of 16 tie against Copenhagen at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday when a relaxed, smiling Haaland was able to poke fun at himself about his clanger in a playful nod to Lineker’s remark.

“People say I’m good at scoring goals but I missed the biggest chance in the world ever two days ago,” Haaland said, tongue ever so slightly in cheek. “I can also become better at that.

“I missed a lot of chances. I will still keep on missing chances, I will still keep on scoring goals. So yeah, I’ll probably miss a big chance in the future as well, and people are going to criticise me, but what can I do then? Should I think of that? No, just focus on scoring more goals and to help the team.”

It was certainly hard to believe Haaland has ever been introspective or insecure about the misses, watching him holding court in City’s packed media auditorium on Tuesday with a calm and confidence befitting one of the game’s greatest players.

But he insists it has taken work to get to the luxury of that position where he can easily block out the negativity and doubts.

“It’s a mental thing,” Haaland said. “I don’t have any exercises, it’s something I’ve been working naturally on. It’s [like] with everything in life, if you overthink something it’s not good. If there’s stress in your life, it’s not good.

“My life is mainly about football so that’s my focus. I have one career so I try do my best to have the best career possible. My focus is to become the best possible version of myself, so the main thing is the mental part.

“I demand a lot from myself and all my team-mates demand a lot from me and the manager [Guardiola] and all the fans. I think it’s something to work on and in the end everything is in here [taps head]. It’s an easy answer but it’s also so difficult [to achieve].”

Analysing Haaland’s performance against United on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football show (see below), the former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry claimed the Norwegian could still improve in various aspects of his game, not least reading certain passes and make specific runs. Haaland does not disagree, even if he was reluctant to be drawn on the specifics of what Guardiola asks him to do for fear of divulging trade secrets.

“I don’t want to say too much on this because it’s our tactic and we use them against opponents, but I do what he [Guardiola] tells me to do,” Haaland said. “I try to get involved when I should. There’s a lot of things I can become better at – everything. I can become a lot better at a lot of things and that’s why I train.”

No one has missed more so-called “big chances” under Opta’s metrics this season than Haaland’s 26. Liverpool’s Darwin Núñez is next with 21. But Haaland also topped that table last season with 28 “big chances” squandered and the only statistic only remembers or cares to mention is the 52 goals he scored en route to helping City win the Treble of Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup. And his record of 28 goals this term is all the more remarkable when you consider he missed two months of it through injury.

“You can think of it in maybe two ways,” he said. “Last year I was top scorer, got 36 goals [in the Premier League], and this season’s top scorer [also Haaland] has got 18 so far, so you can think of it in two ways if it’s been a good season or not for me. I think we’re doing pretty good as a team, that’s my main focus of course.”

City will move to the top of the Premier League if they beat leaders Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday and Haaland says last season’s successes have served only to whet his appetite and make him hungrier for more.

“You can think about it in two ways – one thing is I came here and won it all,” he said. “And the other thing is I’m 23-years-old and I won everything and I got the taste of it – how it is to win everything –- and how I work is that when I feel this, I want to win it again. Easy as that.

“I focus on Copenhagen right now, but yeah it [Liverpool] is a massive game, it’s going to be a huge game and one of the biggest in England, so we have to be ready, we have to be brave and we have to play at our best because they have been really good this season.”

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