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Exclusive: Nedum Onuoha on Erling Braut Haaland, Fernandinho and Manchester City transfers

Exclusive: Nedum Onuoha on Haaland, Fernandinho and Man City transfers
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Former Manchester City defender Nedum Onuoha speaks to Sports Mole about the arrival of Erling Braut Haaland and potential departures at the Etihad Stadium this summer.

Former Manchester City defender Nedum Onuoha believes the arrival of Erling Braut Haaland at the Etihad Stadium will provide a major boost to the Premier League in the same way that Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Old Trafford did last summer.

The Citizens announced at the beginning of this month that they have agreed a deal in principle to sign the Norwegian striker from Borussia Dortmund this summer, subject to the club 'finalising terms' with the player, and will activate his £51m release clause on July 1.

Haaland will allegedly put pen to paper on a five-year contract that will run until the summer of 2027 and earn around £375,000 per week, matching the club's highest earner Kevin De Bruyne.

Speaking to Sports Mole ahead of the release of his autobiography 'Kicking Back' on May 17, Onuoha believes that the addition of Haaland will attract a larger audience for the Premier League and feels supporters will be able to watch the talented striker in blue and white colours for several years to come.

"Seeing him come to the Premier League, one of the best young talents in the world, I think it's a big boost for the Premier League itself in the same way that it was a big boost for the Premier League to see [Cristiano] Ronaldo come back (to Manchester United) at the start of this season.

Borussia Dortmund's Erling Braut Haaland says goodbye to the fans before playing his last match on May 14, 2022© Reuters

"These are players who bring eyes and it's not just necessarily for the teams they play for, it's because that's who they are. For City to be able to bring in somebody of that age, there's scope for him to be there for a long time because he's still so young. A 21-year-old coming to the Premier League with this sort of noise around him is truly remarkable."

Onuoha also believes that Haaland will thrive on the chances created by his City teammates, but admits that the striker may receive criticism if he is unable to help the club win the Champions League.

"I think he's going to be bringing the goals, because he'll get a ton of chances, that's a fact according to what we've seen from City over the past couple of years. But then also, I think he's a player that wants to get better and he has ambitions of being in the conversation for the Ballon d'Or and awards like that.

"I think he'll bring a few more bums on seats. I think he'll bring a lot more eyes. But all that stuff will bring more criticism as well. There will be lots of people who will only judge him as being a success if City win the Champions League, and even if he has a bad Champions League spell and they still win it, then they'll say 'well it was worth the money'. That's the situation they're caught in at the minute."

Manchester City's Fernandinho celebrates scoring their fourth goal on April 30, 2022© Reuters

While City have wasted no time in recruiting fresh talent to bolster their squad this summer, senior members of their first team could be heading for the exit door, including club captain Fernandinho who is set to see his contract expire next month.

Onuoha, who spent eight years in City's first team between 2004 and 2012, has been impressed with his former club's long-term recruitment strategy, but has questioned who could replace Fernandinho, as any potential signing is unlikely to play every week given the importance of first-team regular Rodri.

"The way [Man City] do things is really interesting because finding someone like Fernandinho, who is now 37-years-old, it's weird to see a player that old within that squad because the rest of the squad is actually quite young. They're very good, as are Liverpool and other sides, in terms of trying to future-proof themselves. They don't want to have a team whereby when the cycle ends, everyone falls away.

"You look around and you see lots of people in their early to mid-twenties. You know they've got another three, four, five, six years that they could be fantastic for the football club. But then in Fernandinho, who is such an icon for the club, who has been so successful for them and is the club captain, you wonder how do you replace him? And if you do replace him, who are you replacing him with?

Manchester City's Fernandinho during training May 3, 2022© Reuters

"Rodri has been incredible this season and who's going to come in who is of that standard, that is happy to not play every single week? Because that's the City way as well. You know [as a player] that when your team is going to play 60 games in a season, you're not going to be playing 60 games. You might play 30, you might play 40, you might be a 40-20, might be a 30-30 you just don't know."

Onuoha would like to see the Citizens find a replacement for Fernandinho this summer but believes Pep Guardiola's side will be "patient" in the transfer market, as they were in recruiting Haaland, and they will only sign new players "when the time is right".

"I think City will probably look to deal with something there. I was speaking to someone about this and overall in terms of the transfers, they're quite patient. When the time is right, they'll get somebody, because by all accounts, they could have maybe gone for Haaland last year, but they said no we'll wait [until this summer] and there'll be other players like that.

"I'd like to see somebody come in to replace him but maybe that's just me being emotional in the same way that I wanted to see someone replace [Sergio] Aguero... It's a tough spot to be in but they seem to know what they're doing."

Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus celebrates with Raheem Sterling after scoring their fourth goal to complete his hat-trick on April 23, 2022© Reuters

Two other first-team stars who have been linked with moves away from the Etihad are Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus, the latter of whom has been in discussions with Arsenal according to the player's agent.

With Haaland and River Plate forward Julian Alvarez joining City in the summer, Onuoha believes both Sterling and Jesus may need to seek a fresh challenge elsewhere, but questions whether they would miss the enjoyment of playing for a club who are competing on all fronts.

"I think a fresh challenge as a concept makes sense. I think for those guys (Sterling and Jesus) they want to play week in week out and they want to play well, but they also want to win trophies.

"You look around and how many places start the season with the ambition of winning four trophies and at the minute you probably say two, two in the Premier League (Man City and Liverpool). If you choose to go elsewhere, you'll miss that, and you might never get that back. There's something about being surrounded by players of that quality and something about going for all those trophies."

Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus celebrates with Raheem Sterling after scoring their fourth goal to complete his hat-trick on April 23, 2022© Reuters

Onuoha adds that both Sterling and Jesus are good enough to play for any club in world football and the attacking pair will need to decide whether they would prefer to play regularly or be involved in a strong squad vying for several trophies.

"They have to make a decision – do they believe in the way that City work or do they not? Do they just want to go and play football, it doesn't matter where it is, or do they want to be part of something which could end up being very special?

"So they'll always consider [a transfer]. They'll listen to the club, in terms of deciding if the club say they want them to stay or if they want them to go, but these players are good enough to be able to go and play anywhere, and if the financial situation is right, in terms of agreeing a fee and City say yes, they can [move on].

"If you're not happy and you want to play more than maybe City is not going to be a place for you because this is exactly how they do things."

Sterling and Jesus, who have scored 30 goals and provided 20 assists combined for City across all competitions this season, will both see their contracts expire in June 2023.

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Borussia Dortmund's Erling Braut Haaland celebrates scoring their fifth goal on December 7, 2021
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