Erling Haaland’s transfer to Manchester City had quickly become an inevitability and throughout April more and more people around the club knew it.
There was a plan for Erling’s father, former City midfielder Alfie, to attend their Premier League home game against title rivals Liverpool on April 10, only for it to be scrapped so as not to arouse suspicion. At a Premier League Hall of Fame event just over two weeks later, former City captain Vincent Kompany was openly talking about the deal.
The problem for City was that nobody was supposed to know.
Even on Tuesday, two hours before the deal was confirmed to the German Stock Exchange by Haaland’s current club Borussia Dortmund, City manager Pep Guardiola said he could not comment for legal reasons. In City’s tweet confirming the news that afternoon, they stated that “the transfer remains subject to the club finalising terms with the player”.
By now, the whole world knows about those.
There is still great secrecy over one element, though.
Sources say they spotted Haaland at City’s training ground last month. The English club dispute the claim.
The hush-hush nature of transfer negotiations means certain aspects will never be completely transparent but those familiar with that visit say it was a daring mission to get him in and out unnoticed, but even turning off security cameras might not be enough to sneak in a man who is nearly two metres (6ft 4in) tall (and appears just as wide).
But then again, the club have managed it before: Guardiola was shown the sights in the spring of 2016, while he was still under contract as Bayern Munich manager. Word of his trip to Manchester only got out years later.