Manchester United have been handed a major boost in the fiercely-competitive race for Erling Haaland – and they have Cristiano Ronaldo to thank.
Haaland, 21, is arguably the hottest property in world football after his meteoric rise at Red Bull Salzburg and Borussia Dortmund.
The Norwegian striker averaged over one goal per game in Austria and has scored a phenomenal 63 times in 64 appearances since joining Dortmund in January 2020.
Haaland is said to have a £68million release clause in his contract with the German giants which will come into force next summer, when a frantic battle for his services is expected.
United and Real Madrid have long been considered two of the frontrunners to sign the former Molde star, but it is the Red Devils who may hold the crucial advantage in the transfer race.
That is because Ronaldo sealed a return to Old Trafford this summer, signing a two-year contract to begin his second stint in the Premier League.
This means United would be able to bolster their offer to Haaland by handing him the chance to line up alongside his idol for the first time.
Haaland declared Ronaldo is his “role model” shortly after arriving at Dortmund last year, saying: “I would love to meet him and tell him that I’m a footballer thanks to him.
“For me, he’s always been a role model.”
Haaland was also pictured performing Ronaldo’s famous celebration in Dortmund training and previously hailed the Portugal superstar and Lionel Messi as the greatest players of all time.
“I think only of myself, to improve my game every day,” Haaland told Norwegian outlet Dagbladet . “I don’t need to talk about Messi and Ronaldo, probably the best players in history. I still need a lot to reach them.”
While United can present Haaland with the chance to link up with Ronaldo, they can also give him the chance to reunite with his former manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Haaland broke through at Molde under his compatriot’s coaching and Solskjaer confessed earlier this year he remains in touch with the youngster.
“When you have had kids and players through as a coach, you follow them and I keep in touch with Erling,” said the Manchester United boss.
“It’s great to see him become the player he has become and [how] he works to improve all the time. He’s a Dortmund player – we just wish him well there and let’s see what life will bring later on.
“You know I can’t speak about Erling because he’s at Borussia Dortmund, and it’s disrespectful to talk too much about it, apart from that I know him and I speak to him.”