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Manchester United transfer target Erling Braut Haaland has previously hinted he has plans to follow in the footsteps of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. United go head-to-head with their former striker Ibrahimovic in the Europa League tonight at the San Siro (8pm kick-off).
The Swede has been passed fit to feature for AC Milan in the second leg of their last 16 tie, with the aggregate score locked at 1-1, after returning to fitness following a thigh injury which caused him to miss the first leg.
Haaland is meanwhile being eyed as the new long-term No 9 for United with the Borussia Dortmund striker, who could cost in excess of £100million this summer, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s top target.
Ibrahimovic was a huge hit for United and scored 29 times in 53 games at Old Trafford, adding 10 assists.
At Milan this season, the veteran also has 16 goals in 21 matches and is only outscored by Cristiano Ronaldo, Romelu Lukaku and Luis Muriel in Serie A.
Likewise Haaland has 19 strikes this term and is second only to Robert Lewandowski in the Bundesliga, having managed 47 in 48 games overall for Dortmund, as well as 11 assists, since joining in January 2020 from Red Bull Salzburg.
The two Scandinavians have naturally been compared over the years given their similar statures and strike rates but Norway international Haaland will have designs on surpassing Ibrahimovic having already reached 100 club and country goals.
Ibrahimovic has managed 483 goals at club level across spells with Milan, Man United, Barcelona, Juventus, Ajax, Inter Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Los Angeles Galaxy and also has 62 international goals for Sweden.
And as he looks to embark on a career as goal-rich as Ibrahimovic’s, Haaland – who could copy the 39-year-old by moving to United – has already admitted he may too look to play for several top clubs.
It has previously been claimed Haaland would love to play for Real Madrid with Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester City among the many rivals to United for his signature.
Speaking in April 2020, Haaland admitted that he admires Ibrahimovic for how he has scored goals regularly at each of his nine clubs in England, Spain, France, Italy, Holland and the United States.
He told FourFourTwo: “I like his mentality and how he sees different things. I think I’ve always had that confidence, too – that’s just me.
“I also like how he moves from one club to another, in another country – which isn’t easy – but he always comes in and just bangs in goals, from the first second. I liked seeing that.
“We’re both strikers and we’re both tall. But we have a different game. It’s hard to compare us. I am who I am.”
Haaland has made no secret of his admiration of Ibrahimovic and also told Dortmund’s official website last year: “I had a lot of idols as a child. I have to mention two players: Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.”
Dortmund are under pressure to qualify for next season’s Champions League and if they do not face the prospect of losing Haaland this coming summer, albeit they will be able to set a high price.
Sporting director Michael Zorc said of the striker, who will be available for less than £70m in the summer of 2022 thanks to a release clause in his contract: “I have never seen someone like him.
“We can search Europe-wide. If he ever left us somewhere, there would only be a handful of clubs, but we’ll try to keep him as long as possible for sporting reasons.
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“We don’t want to play in the Europa League on Thursdays. We want to give our calling card in the Champions League.”
While Haaland’s agent Mino Raiola said last month to BBC Sport: “It is obvious though that everybody is looking at Erling as one of those potential new future stars because it’s so difficult to do what he does at his age at his level.
“He will be one of the future stars of the next decade because we see that stars such as Ibrahimovic, Ronaldo and [Lionel] Messi are coming to an age where everyone asks themselves: ‘How long can we still enjoy them?’
“So everyone is looking for the new generation. It’s obvious that only maybe a maximum of 10 clubs can afford to buy [Haaland] from Dortmund so we can all fill in those clubs.
“And four of those clubs are in your beautiful country [England]. And you can fill them in, you can call them and ask, ‘Would you be interested?’
“I don’t think there’s a sports director or trainer in the world who would say, ‘I am not interested’. It’s like saying: ‘Is there a Formula 1 team who would not be interested in having Lewis Hamilton?'”
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