Manchester City will be forced to pay a British transfer record fee in order to sign Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham, according to reports.
The 19-year-old has been linked with a move to City and Liverpool in recent months, with Manchester United also interested in the England international. Bellingham, who has made 15 appearances for his country, has two years left on his deal with the Bundesliga giants, and Dortmund are determined to keep him.
According to the Athletic, the German club will set an asking price of £131m for Bellingham. This would make the midfielder the most expensive British player in history. The record fee is currently the £100m paid for Jack Grealish in 2021 by City.
Bellingham has made 100 appearances for Dortmund, registering 13 goals and 18 assists since his arrival from Birmingham City.
Elsewhere, Italian outlet Calcio Mercato are reporting that Pep Guardiola is a massive admirer of AC Milan star Rafael Leao, with the Premier League champions linked with a move for the Portuguese winger in recent weeks.
The 23-year-old Leao won the Serie A Player of the Season last term with a number of impressive performances as Milan won the league title ahead of rivals Inter.
Leao made 42 appearances for Stefano Pioli’s side last season, registering 14 goals and 12 assists in all competitions. The talented youngster has made an impressive start to this term, helping himself to nine goal contributions already.
It is thought that Premier League rivals Chelsea are also interested in signing Leao, with the Blues reportedly making a late bid for the Milan man in the summer transfer window.
Striker Julian Alvarez has admitted that he was taken aback by the quality of team-mates Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne following his move to Manchester City.
City announced the signing of Alvarez back in January, singing him on a five-and-a-half-year deal. However, he remained at former club River Plate on loan for the remainder of the 2021/22 season, before arriving in England for the start of pre-season.
The versatile forward, who has notched three goals in all competitions so far this season, first met up with his team-mates at the start of pre-season, rubbing shoulders with some of the world’s biggest names for the first time. It promised to be a special occasion for the 22-year-old and he has now admitted that it was the talent of both Gundogan and De Bruyne that caught his eye most.
Alvarez, speaking to City’s club website, said: “There are a lot of good players here, all of them play beautiful football. Skilful football.
“The first days [at the club] I told my family I was very surprised by Ilkay and Kevin for how he controls the ball and how he moves in small spaces and his technical skillset. I’ve always said I wanted to play with the best players in the world.
“Well now here at Manchester City but that goes for the national team as well. With the vast majority of players playing here in Europe, you learn a lot. Not just watching them but also sharing the pitch with them.”
Alvarez, who is currently away on international duty with his native Argentina, has started just once since joining the club, starting and scoring twice in the 6-0 win over Nottingham Forest at the end of August. Such is the competitiveness and strength in depth manager Pep Guardiola has available to him in attacking areas, opportunities have not been as forthcoming for the forward as he would have necessarily hoped for.
Nevertheless, he has welcomed the level of competition that is in place, adding: “In every team there is internal competition, but healthy competition like is always said. It is always good to compete and to share the locker room with the best players in the world.
“In your position because you learn, and you grow a lot. And I’m here to do those things.”
Manchester United take on rivals Manchester City in their next Premier League match on October 2. Express Sport looks at the latest on the fitness of eight of Erik ten Hag’s squad.
Rashford suffered an injury before the international break to rule him out of the Nations League matches against Italy and Germany. The forward scored twice on his last appearance against Arsenal and will be desperate to return soon.
He should be available against City and Ten Hag will want him to start. Rashford has a good record against the reigning Premier League champions and could be key to his side’s chances at the Etihad.
Martial has been struggling with an Achilles problem, which has restricted him to just one appearance all season. The Frenchman has not been able to return to first-team training yet.
Ten Hag most recently said of Martial: “He’s progressing, but he’s not ready to get back into team training or in a game.” The City match is likely to come too soon for the 26-year-old.
Wan-Bissaka has lost his spot as first-choice right-back to Diogo Dalot. However, he isn’t in a position to compete with Dalot as he is currently injured.
He will use these two weeks to work his way back to fitness from a minor problem. Fans could see him among the substitutes at the Etihad if all goes to plan.
One of the forgotten men at United. Williams has not featured in a match-day squad this season and missed the whole of pre-season due to injury.
He is currently working his way to full fitness and could be a full-back option in cup competitions this season.
Van de Beek has not been in the United squad for the last two matches. However, the Manchester Evening News says he returned to training at the beginning of this week.
He was left out of Louis van Gaal’s Holland squad for the international break.
Youngster Pellistri is also back in training following an ankle injury. But he would unlikely be nowhere near the squad to travel to City.
Pellistri is in the Uruguay squad so will be hoping to get some action in the next week or so.
Jones has suffered long-term knee issues. Ten Hag has seen fit to leave him out of both his Premier League and Europa League squads, so there is no chance of him featuring anytime soon.
Tuanzebe has not been in any squad so far this season. He hasn’t been pictured in training since July so is unlikely to be in Ten Hag’s immediate plans.
“In every interview I have to answer two or three questions about him,” said Manuel Akanji this week when Erling Haaland was inevitably mentioned in an interview.
Pep Guardiola has already learned to embrace the inevitable questions about Haaland in his Manchester City press conferences, joking with the Norwegian journalists who are now regulars around the Etihad, and telling reporters last week to ask about John Stones before the avalanche of Haaland questions began after the win over Borussia Dortmund.
As well as the goals Haaland is scoring, his impact on the club as a whole in such a short space of time is remarkable — something only the biggest world stars can do. However, that attention is also having another hidden benefit to the City squad, with players beginning to open up more about the new era at the Etihad since Haaland arrived.
Jack Grealish, speaking on international duty and facing the same Haaland question as Akanji did, had a similar assessment to his new teammate.
“Everywhere I go now — whether it be family, friends, people in the street — they always say ‘what’s he like?’ And I can’t speak highly enough of him,” Grealish said, before explaining how he arrived at the England camp to coaches taking the mick over his goal at Wolves.
At Molineux, Grealish darted into the box just 55 seconds into the game and converted a Kevin De Bruyne cross from close range that had just evaded Haaland.
“Could you get anything off him? I actually think I could,” Grealish continued, “His mindset for scoring goals is unbelievable. If I could get that… I came here and I spoke to (England coach) Steve Holland and he said ‘was that actually you at the back stick scoring?’
“[He said it] because that’s something that I’ve not been known for but it is something that I want to do more often. If I could take anything [from Haaland], it would be that.”
It feels strange to argue City’s attackers didn’t have that ‘mindset’ for goalscoring that Grealish mentioned, although it’s also fair to say Haaland takes that to a new level completely. If his teammates can pick up on some of Haaland’s movements and runs then more goals will follow for everyone.
In fact, the third goal against Wolves saw Phil Foden make a similar run to the near post after Haaland dropped outside of the area to link up with De Bruyne. Foden ensured there was still a Blue shirt ready to convert a chance even when Haaland wasn’t in his usual lurking position.
So Guardiola and his players might be happy to face questions about Haaland if the goals keep coming from the number nine. And on the few occasions the Norwegian isn’t scoring, there are early signs that the rest of the squad are learning from him to deputise in the penalty area.