5:00 AM ET

At one time or another, every single one of Europe's biggest clubs harboured hopes of signing Erling Haaland. Some have had face-to-face talks with his representatives. At one point, Manchester United began looking at travel options to bring him to the city because they believed they were so close to a transfer.

Haaland is the most coveted young player in the world, so much so that the pair have been tipped to take over from Lionel Messi and CR7 as the game. On Tuesday, it was announced that Manchester City have won the race for Haaland, despite the fact that Kylian Mbappe is still at the center of his own transfer saga between Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid.

- Man City agree deal to sign Dortmund's Haaland

- The staggering stats that made Haaland the most-wanted striker

- Marcotti: Why Haaland, Guardiola and City are a perfect match

According to sources close to the club, they believe they have signed a generational superstar in a deal that could go down as one of the best in football history. They have done it with minimal fuss and in plenty of time to ensure Haaland will be on the plane with the rest of the squad for the preseason tour of the United States.

Haaland has his chance on the big stage, and he finally has his strikers. Here is how things ended.

Additional reporting by Mark Ogden, Sam Marsden, Moises Llorens, Rodrigo Faez and Alex Kirkland.

Haaland was on Man City's radar, along with all the elite clubs, since his days at Salzburg. But Man City had the best pitch and best offer. Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Man City's priority: Haaland, Kane, then Haaland

Man City's scouts have been aware of Haaland since he made his senior debut for Bryne in Norway as a 15-year-old in 2016 and his reputation as a powerful, prolific goal scorer has only increased in the years since. He scored 29 goals in 27 games as a teenager for Austrian side FC Salzburg, after a spell under former Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

He signed a contract with the German side in December of last year, after scoring 85 goals in 88 games over two-and-a-half seasons, and that's when he decided to join City.

The proposed transfer from Salzburg to United broke down over Mino Raiola's insistence that a release clause be inserted into the deal. United said that Haaland and his representatives had control over his future and that they quickly canceled their travel plans. The 60m clause was included and will be active in the summer transfer window of 2022.

After reaching an agreement in principle with Haaland and his agents following the death of Raiola, Man City informed the team that they intended to invoke it before the June deadline. Haaland's team told Real Madrid and the other two clubs that he was going to sign with them, in telephone conversations ahead of a weekend trip to Belgium for medical tests with City staff.

If things had been different last summer, Haaland would be moving.

Harry Kane was the top transfer target for City in the summer of 2021, but they were deterred by Spurs valuation. According to sources, City chiefs made it clear during those discussions that if a compromise over Kane couldn't be reached, then Haaland would be their alternative option the following summer, but that revelation didn't force Spurs into entering serious negotiations and Kane stayed put. Kane confirmed that he would stay in North London, which made Haaland the first choice.

Jadon Sancho's 85m move to Man United was already advanced and the German giants wouldn't allow two, only for City to be told that Haaland was available a year ago.

The 12m paid to City as part of the deal for Sancho helped them quickly put together the financial framework needed to eventually secure him. The first part of the Haaland deal will be worth around 40 million dollars.

There have been jokes inside the club that the fee is less than Man United paid to sign the player, as City believe they have got a player who would be worth upwards of 200m on the open market.


The best decision for Erling Haaland was joining Manchester City.

'An emotional connection'

Haaland will become one of the highest paid players at the club when he arrives on July 1, but sources close to the club insist that his salary is not higher than that of Kevin De Bruyne. Dressing room harmony is a priority for Guardiola regardless of the player, while those closest to Haaland insist the move is not driven by money.

His representatives are aware that they could have made more money from a move to United, but sources have said that their interest was dismissed out of hand months ago.

There is a theory that the decision to sack Solskjaer ended the hope that Haaland could go to United. The decision to snub United was made simply because they are no longer, because of a good relationship between Haaland and Rangnick from their time at Red Bull.

- Which Premier League clubs will qualify for Europe?

- Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (U.S. only)

- Don't have ESPN? Get instant access

According to sources close to Haaland, the manager, style of play and their ability to be successful on the pitch were some of the factors that weighed on the club's interest. City met all the requirements. Haaland is desperate to win the Ballon d'Or and the chance to work with Guardiola was a big factor.

Haaland and his team have done their homework about where to go next since the ink was drying on his contract. Raiola, who died last month, and Alfie Haaland went to Real Madrid and Barcelona on the same day. It was City who left the best impression when there were talks with both of the other teams.

Real Madrid were also seriously considered, but their pursuit of Mbappe complicated matters, while Benzema has shown he is far from finished as a top-level strikers after a season in which he has already topped 40 goals.

Even if the LaLiga offers a sterner test for a young strikers, it is City who are crying out for a No. 9. It is being billed as a return to City after Alfie played there between 2000 and 2003

There are still people who remember holding Erling as a baby when he was born in England a month after Alfie joined the club. Haaland and his father were in the stands at Wembley for the League Cup final. The City look after their former players, and they have had Alfie as a guest or fan a number of times. According to sources, Erling feels he has an emotional connection with the club he is joining.

Haaland's father, Alfie, has advised him well throughout his career and his playing days at Man City clearly resonated with the Dortmund striker in his decision. Alexandre Simoes/Borussia Dortmund via Getty Images

What happens from here?

Haaland to City feels like the right fit for both club and player, but it is not without risk.

There is less space for forward players to attack and run into in the English top flight, which is why the scouts from Chelsea were concerned about the style of play of Haaland. The staff at Barcelona had reservations about him. According to sources, Real Madrid took issue with his injury record, but they accepted that it didn't put them off completely.

There is still a chance that he will.

The move to City is the next step for Haaland and his representatives have carefully planned each stage of his career. While City are aware of Haaland's desire to one day play for Real Madrid, they will back themselves to make life so comfortable that he never wants to leave. That tactic has worked with the man, who has signed two contract extensions since his arrival in 2016 and hasn't ruled out another this summer.

City, Haaland and Guardiola can all be happy that they have what they wanted. A transfer tale more than two years in the making has ended with one of Europe's best young players joining one of Europe's best teams. They hope it turns out to be a dream.