Man City might have found a perfect Erling Haaland contingency plan – Daniel Murphy

It&aposs nothing new. City have got used to saying goodbye to world-class players and they have always come out the other side stronger. Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez left this year alone following on from the departures of Fernandinho, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Leroy Sane and Vincent Kompany.

But losing Haaland would hit harder. Of course it would. He&aposs the best striker on the planet if not just the best footballer outright. A freak of nature who can score at a near-unprecedented rate. Signing such an incredible talent helped City win a treble, losing him would hurt like an arrow to the heart.

It appears a long way for now, at least. Haaland is only into his second season at the Etihad (six goals in four games, obviously) and his success under Pep Guardiola as well as how much he is enjoying Manchester may have extended any preemptive career path plans.

But the fear of losing him must always linger, even if just in the back of the mind. There aren&apost many plausible options for Haaland to move to but Real Madrid is always lurking like the monster in the attic.

Madrid were expected to throw their weight around in the chase for Haaland but the late-career form of Karim Benzema meant they didn&apost need a striker at the time. Now the Frenchman has departed, Kylian Mbappe still hasn&apost signed and Madrid only have Joselu at their disposal for the new season.

Los Blancos may try to lure Haaland away sooner or later and his father Alf Inge Haaland has already placed a timeframe on his time at City. “I think Erling wants to test out his capabilities in every league,” he said in the documentary, Haaland: The Big Decision in 2022. “Then he can stay in every league for three to four years maximum.

“He could have two-and-a-half years in Germany, two-and-a-half in England, and then in Spain, Italy, France, right? We do not know if it will be like that, but I think he would like to test his abilities in the big leagues.”

All good things end and if Haaland does decide to depart then City will need a replacement. The Norwegian&aposs arrival has seen a transformation in how the side plays from having no striker to an attacking spearhead and going back might not be so easy.

A new striker will be needed and knowing City&aposs expert planning and preparation, they probably already have a healthy shortlist in mind. One name on it must be Evan Ferguson.

The Brighton starlet is only 18 but you&aposd be forgiven for thinking overwise given he has the hulking frame of a post-war era striker who would score 300 goals for Blackburn combined with the pace, skill and guille required for modern strikers.

Only Haaland has more goals than Ferguson so far this season after his stunning hat-trick against Newcastle and it looks set to be the Irishman&aposs breakout year. He netted an impressive six times last season as he broke into the first team and is now a regular starter ready to take the league by storm.

Unsurprisingly, the vultures are already circling and several big clubs are once again lining up to give Brighton a humungous transfer fee. City are reportedly one of them and Alan Shearer can understand why.

“Its no surprise Manchester City are reportedly among the clubs watching him,” Shearer wrote in his column for the Athletic. “It would be more of a surprise if they were not.

“I love how he can bully defenders,” Shearer added of Ferguson. “I love his positioning, I love how hes always asking different questions of the centre-half, either going up against him or, as he did against Newcastle, dropping in short, getting the ball to feet and turning.

“I love his movement in the box. Perhaps most of all, I love the purity and ferocity of his hunger; how much he craves goals.

“Does that last point sound too basic? Were living in an era of agile, versatile, creative forwards. Not every player burns with the desire to score whatever the circumstances or cost, but Ferguson has it.”

Though nowhere near the same calibre just yet, Ferguson is earning comparisons to Haaland thanks to his physicality and clinical edge in the box. He is the latest in a resurging breed of pure No.9s and if his development continues at the same rate, would make an obvious replacement for Haaland.

Knowing Brighton, he is likely to cost over 100m but if City are forced into the striker market in the heartbreaking event of Haaland&aposs departure, Ferguson is shaping up to be a worthy contingency plan.

The transfer window has been a hectic one and City have been busy, with high-profile signings and sales aplenty.

City snapped up Croatian pair Mateo Kovacic and Josko Gvardiol from Chelsea and RB Leipzig respectively with the latest addition being Jeremy Doku. Wolves&apos Matheus Nunes then joined the Blues on deadline day. In terms of outgoings, Treble winner Ilkay Gundogan departed for Barcelona, Aymeric Laporte and Riyad Mahrez moved to Saudi Arabia, and Cole Palmer completed a shock move to Chelsea.

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