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Barcelona to chase Haaland but deem pursuit ‘very difficult’

Erling Braut Haaland during a Bundesliga match / LARS BARON (GETTY IMAGES)

Mino Raiola and Erling Haaland’s father met with parts of the Barcelona board last Thursday, sparking hope among the Barcelona faithful. But according to ESPN, Barça deem it ‘very difficult’ to sign the youngster.

New Barcelona president Joan Laporta met with Haaland’s agent Mino Raiola and his father Alf-Inge Haaland in the Catalan city on Thursday to discuss a transfer for the breakout Norwegian star. Raiola and Alf-Inge also met with Real Madrid representatives later in the day.

According to sources from ESPN, Laporta left the meeting committed to trying to sign the Norway international but there’s also an acknowledgment that Barca’s financial situation is likely to impede a potential deal.

Barca’s gross debt has risen to nearly €1.2 billion and the club is in dire need to reduce their wage bill. Laporta mentioned in his inauguration speech that he will have to make big decisions and Barca would have to sell several players for sizeable fees to even consider Haaland — who has a €75 million release clause that can be triggered in 2022.

Last summer saw Barca focus on reducing the wage bill, with several big earners, such as Ivan Rakitic, Arturo Vidal and Luis Suarez, allowed to leave for nominal fees. According to ESPN, in the financial climate Barca are in, a similar transfer window is expected this summer as well.

However, Laporta is planning for all eventualities. He held meetings with Ronald Koeman during the international break to discuss about the remainder of this season and to start planning for the next one. The Barca coach wants a striker added to the squad, with Haaland’s name at the top of the list of targets.

ESPN reported in March that Dortmund would want €180m for Haaland this summer, while reports in the Spanish media this weekend suggested that Raiola and Haaland Sr. would each want €20m in commission in addition to a €30m net salary for Haaland.

Raiola knocked those reports back on Twitter on Sunday, calling them “fake news.”

Several Premier league clubs have also been linked with an interest in signing the Dortmund striker, with Manchester City being told as top runners, as they search for a striker to replace Aguero, whose contract expires this summer. Coming as a surprise to most, Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola said last week that “with these prices, we are not going to buy any striker. It is impossible, we cannot afford it.”

Meanwhile, Koeman is still insisting on signing Memphis Depay from Lyon. He is out of contract in the summer and could therefore arrive for free. Barca tried and failed to sign him last October.

According to sources close to the club and ESPN, Koeman — who has turned Barca’s season around with an 18-game unbeaten run in La Liga moving them to within four points of leaders Atletico Madrid with a game in hand — will end up getting his way.

Talks are also at an advanced stage to sign Manchester City defender Eric Garcia on a free, who has been heavily linked with a return to the Catalan side. The Spain international is out of contract in the summer and Barca are finalizing the terms of the agreement with his agent, Ivan de la Pena.

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