Title won, celebrations over, and now, slowly, Manchester City’s thoughts will turn to next season.
Maybe not for the players – some of them are already jetting off on holidays across Europe and beyond after their dramatic title success.
But planning for the new campaign has to be considered by all at the Etihad Campus. In reality, it has been for a while.
The spectacular signing of Erling Haaland was a long time in the planning, as City beat a host of European giants for a player that many feel has the potential to be a generational talent.
An agreement to sign the Norway international on a five-year deal was agreed on May 11, with the newly-crowned English champions set to pay Haaland’s £51 million ($63m) release clause to release him from Borussia Dortmund.
The 21-year-old had a medical in Belgium two days before the deal was announced, but has stayed away from the Etihad Stadium to ensure that the focus was not taken away from the club’s title run-in, even with the excitemen among fans over such a statement signing.
While there will be exits this summer, with Fernandinho returning to Brazil and compatriot Gabriel Jesus set to follow him out of the exit doors, there was a togetherness in the City squad that remained until the dramatic final-day victory over Aston Villa.
But with the curtain finally coming down on another title-winning campaign, Haaland flew into Manchester on Tuesday to meet staff from his new club.
First, he had a stop-off in Barcelona, for a check-up with Dr Ramon Cugat and an assessment of the injury problems that saw him miss 10 of Dortmund’s 34 Bundesliga matches this season.
The club’s trusted doctor has worked with many City players in the past, including Kevin De Bruyne, Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero, and is there go-to expert for medical advice.
From there, Haaland flew on to Manchester, arriving later in the afternoon with his father Alfie, himself a former City player and someone who has been heavily involved in the transfer process having visited Real Madrid and Barcelona, amongst others, alongside Haaland’s former agent, Mino Raiola.
The Haaland family have often visited City over the past decade for big matches, and that emotional pull was one of the reasons for choosing a switch to the Premier League champions.
Later on Tuesday, the Haalands headed to the Guardiola-backed Catalan restaurant, Tast, in Manchester city centre for an informal dinner, and the striker is set for a tour of the club’s training facilities on Wednesday.
While City believe they are signing a striker that has the potential to be the best in the world, they will be patient with his immediate integration.
Haaland scored 85 goals in 88 matches for Dortmund after joining from Red Bull Salzburg for €20m (£17m/$22m) in January 2020, but some have raised concerns about other areas of his game.
Dortmund are, however, viewed as a club that help young players develop their football intelligence as well as giving them game time, and there is a confidence that he will be able to adapt to the Guardiola way of playing.
From Guardiola’s point of view, he is constantly evolving his tactical approach, aware that Premier League rivals also move quickly to work out ways to stop his side.
But there are no concerns that the arrival of a number nine will disrupt a team that clinched their fourth title in five years without a striker.
The City boss wanted an orthodox striker at the beginning of last summer, and only Tottenham’s reluctance to sell Harry Kane meant they went into the season without one.
A year on, Guardiola struggled to hide his excitement on the day the Haaland agreement was set to be announced and later revealed he his confident his new arrival will fit in.
“I’m pretty sure [he will adapt],” he said. “I have to know him to give a real opinion and work with him. But when he scores his amount of goals it is because he is good and intuitive.
“Arriving in a new country and new house and friends and all these kind of things, you have to adjust. That’s why he has to settle here, start, have good holidays, come back here with no injuries and start to work and play.
“If it takes weeks, great. If it takes a month, great. He hasn’t come here for two or three months, he comes for many many years, I hope. If he needs more time, there is more time.
“We will try to help him and I’m pretty sure he will try to help us. I don’t have any doubts about that.”
Leeds-born Haaland knows some of the players in the City squad already, and his salary of around £400,000-a-week makes him one of the highest earners at the club, but not out of step with their best players.
After his brief visit, the next step will be a formal announcement of the deal, before he is expected back in July ahead of a pre-season tour to the United States.
Guardiola is set to go on his summer break soon after, with the Catalan shattered by a gruelling end of season run-in.
Then comes the serious business of chasing the ‘three-peat’, but with the added firepower of one of the best forwards on the planet already secured.
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