Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Braut Haaland is “very close” to reaching an agreement to join Manchester City, according to Guillem Balague.
Haaland’s contract expires in 2024 but a release clause allows him to leave for 75m euros (£62.8m) this summer.
Balague believes City have sold the Norway forward, 21, the idea of joining now before moving on to Real Madrid.
“He will be at Manchester City, I feel,” said Balague, BBC Sport’s European football expert.
“There’s no agreement but they’re very close.”
City, Real and Barcelona have all spoken to Haaland but the former Red Bull Salzburg striker ruled out Barca before Karim Benzema’s recent form for Real apparently made up his mind to join the Premier League leaders.
The France striker, 34, has scored successive hat-tricks in the Champions League knockout stage, helping him to a career-best 39 goals so far this season.
“Haaland has known for a while what Real Madrid and Manchester City are offering, and others, but those are the two clubs that are left,” Balague said on the Euro Leagues podcast.
“Something has happened in the last couple of weeks, something called Benzema, that has turned the mind of Haaland into ‘you know what, I can go to Madrid in two or three years’.
“And that, by the way, was the proposal City put to him. Not only was it the most attractive financial proposition, they also said ‘you’re young, stay with us for two or three years, we’ll use you well, meanwhile Real Madrid will always be there’.”
‘If Benzema wasn’t there, Haaland would be a Real player’
As it stands Benzema, who has taken over as Real’s leading scorer since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2018, has another year on his contract.
Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola is also under contract until 2023 but the reigning Premier League champions hope the arrival of Haaland will “convince him to stay another year at least,” says Balague.
“If Benzema was not there, [Haaland] would be a Real Madrid player,” he added. “The attractiveness of Real Madrid – I would add Barcelona as well – goes beyond any money Manchester City can offer.
“But Manchester City have played their cards. One of them is financial, the other is ‘Pep Guardiola’s here – if you come in, he’ll probably stay for a bit longer’. That’s something Pep is considering.”
Guardiola has managed without a traditional central striker for much of the last two seasons, with Sergio Aguero making just 12 Premier League appearances in 2020-21 before joining Barcelona last summer.
“He has been desperate for a striker,” said Balague. “They just don’t score enough goals compared with the amount of times they shoot.
“For a time, they thought it could be Lionel Messi. Obviously they tried for Harry Kane. They also thought it could be Cristiano Ronaldo.
“It will be fascinating to see how Haaland will adapt to what Pep wants from him. He’s very good on transition but when there’s no space, he may initially struggle.
“I think, though, he will do work to open space for other players on the team. He is a perfect fit – like a glove to a hand.”