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Haaland, Pimenta & Real Madrid: Why all this chatter threatens Man City ambitions

COMMENT: It's not an issue... for now. But for Manchester City. For their fans. Even for the player. Having Erling Haaland's camp routinely entertain talk of a move to Real Madrid does no-one at City any good...

As we say, for the moment it's not a problem. City are winning. Dominating. And when you do, such issues can be shrugged off. But for this column, it is brewing. Building. And threatens this City 'project', which remains well off from completion.

Over the past 12 months, too many times has Rafaela Pimenta, who took leadership of Mino Raiola's agency upon his passing, teased the idea of Haaland making a future move to Madrid. A regular with the Spanish press, Pimenta hasn't been shy when asked about her star client and his Los Merengues ambitions.

Twice in November the lawyer added to the speculation. First allowing herself to be spotted at the Santiago Bernabeu for the Champions League tie with Braga. Then a week later quipping: "If he will sign for Madrid? You must ask Madrid..."

Such words arrived after Pimenta had also replied in April over a mysterious 2024 break clause in Haaland's deal: "Good ladies know how to shut up..."

Of course, it's hardly a transfer demand. But these things tend to add up. They cast doubt. The quips. The asides. They fuel the speculation. The intention can be lost. Claims can be exaggerated. And suddenly you have a real problem on your hands.

In a winning dressing room, it matters little. But football is a cycle - even for City. And when that valley appears, such things do count. Even Pimenta has found herself having to clarify one of her previous statements: “After my words, I read rumours that spoke of a clause of one billion euros that Real Madrid would set for a player [in this case, Rodrygo].

"In any case, with Erling I wasn't just referring to his wage bill, but to everything that surrounds him: clubs, sponsors, shirts. Haaland's journey will certainly reach these values.

"As for the clause, it is a way for clubs to say 'I decide'. However, I think that, if we want a peaceful future, we have to talk to each other."

Is it all intentional? To keep Real on the hook as they consider the Norwegian or PSG's Kylian Mbappe as their next Galactico? You'd like to think not. But this does smack of Raiola and his management of Paul Pogba during his time at Manchester United. Every time the Frenchman found a little bit of form. A run of consistency. Rather than shutdown the rumour mill of a return to the continent, Raiola fanned the flames. United fans never knew where they stood with Pogba. And it would often be left to his manager, particularly Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, to ease that supporter doubt created by the player's agent.

For this column, we can see something similar building with Haaland and Pimenta. And of course, this column has a conflict. We want open dialogue. We want to know the thoughts of players and their representatives. But this isn't about the news cycle. It's about the best interests of City FC.

Give the lawyer the benefit of the doubt, but she is still courting unnecessary publicity. And if these little concerns persist, there is the potential of it all going the same way as Pogba and the Stretford End.

For City. For the club's management team. This is a challenge. The next major target to achieve. Treble winners. All up, an incredible five-trophies in a year. Yet, they're still second best? Florentino Perez, the Real Madrid president, can click his fingers and unsettle their star man? Indeed, if Barcelona had their finances together, would Pimenta also be courting them through the Catalan press?

City, for all their success, are still not that final destination. It's growing, sure. In England, it's a struggle seeing a future Harry Maguire or Alexis Sanchez choosing United over City. Just as we're witnessing in South America, where the likes of Julian Alvarez and now Claudio Echeverri are prioritising the Sky Blues over all other European suitors. But on the continent, they're not yet there. As Treble winners, they should be - and City's owners will believe as much. But they'll only know when this project has reached completion after the next Mbappe announces he's chosen City over Real Madrid as a final destination.

The flirting of Haaland's minders with Real, of course, will stall hopes of gaining such status. For the club, there is no benefit. Indeed, Ferran Soriano, City's chief exec, has made it clear this season that their long-term plans do include Haaland, "I think he will stay here for many years." That was in November, on Catalan radio, just as Pimenta was speaking with the Madridista press. Contradicted? Undermined? As we say, winning keeps tensions eased.

For the moment, this isn't an issue. But if Haaland is happy for Pimenta to keep talking. To continue to encourage those headlines. It will become a problem for City, for their fans and even for the player himself.

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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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