Borussia Dortmund have set their fee for Erling Haaland, while TikTok is proving a nuisance at Barcelona. ESPN's Insider Notebook has the latest.
Jump to: TikTok torment at Barcelona | La Liga's battle with drones | Bale future unclear despite Madrid claims | Bailly's fears over Man United defender search | Roma, Sevilla join chase for Lacazette
Haaland's eye-watering €180m valuation
Erling Haaland's transfer fee this summer has been set by Borussia Dortmund, sources told ESPN, with interested clubs needing €180 million in order to land one of the most sought after players in world football.
Haaland has been a revelation in Germany, scoring 49 goals in as many matches after his move from FC Salzburg in January 2020. He has scored 32 goals in 31 appearances this season, including 10 in six Champions League matches, and his agent, Mino Raiola, has said 10 clubs are in a position to sign him.
The striker moved to Dortmund last year amid fierce interest from Manchester United, but the Bundesliga side managed to secure a deal after agreeing to include a release clause in his contract. That clause is not active until the summer of 2022. Clubs can sign Haaland this summer, but the €180m Dortmund are asking for represents a premium for losing him before the clause kicks in next year.
Dortmund underlined their stance on their star names last summer when United attempted to negotiate a lower fee for England international Jadon Sancho. The Premier League side attempted to bargain with BVB in order to lower their €120m valuation of the forward, but Dortmund refused to negotiate.
The same hardline tactic is in place this summer for Haaland, sources told ESPN, in a move that is designed to warn Europe's heavyweights off making a bid. United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich all have varying levels of interest in the Norway international, but in a transfer market impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, Dortmund hope their €180m valuation will keep Haaland at the club for another year.
Sources had told ESPN that senior figures at Chelsea believed they could tempt Dortmund into a deal this summer, but this was before the Bundesliga side's position on Haaland's fee became clear. Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a long-term admirer of the 20-year-old, but the club's latest financial records show revenue is down 7% to £281.8m and profit down 7% to £33.6m, with Solskjaer admitting the club will need to be "realistic" when it comes to transfers. Barcelona's new president Joan Laporta is eager to make Haaland a cornerstone of his tenure at the club, but with Barca in debt to the tune of €1.1 billion, a €180m move for the player will be difficult.
La Liga president Javier Tebas has said it would take a "magic trick" for Barca or Real Madrid to land Haaland given the sums involved, and sources told ESPN that Manchester City are surprised at the optimistic reports in Spain regarding the two teams' hopes of signing him as they believe they are in a stronger position to make a move.
Dortmund are struggling in the Bundesliga this season despite Haaland's brilliance, with the club in a battle to qualify for the Champions League next season under interim coach Edin Terzic. BVB trail Eintracht Frankfurt by four points in the final qualification spot for next season's competition, and the meeting between the two sides at the Westfalenstadion on April 3 will go a long way in determining who features in Europe's elite tournament next term.
Haaland stormed off the field last weekend after Dortmund drew 2-2 at relegation-threatened Cologne despite their star striker's double, but sources say they will resist attempts from clubs looking to lowball them this summer if Dortmund miss out on the Champions League. -- Stephan Uersfeld and Rodri Faez
Barcelona's TikTok troubles
Barcelona want to increase security at their training ground to stop players being harassed, sources told ESPN, with Lionel Messi and other stars targeted by users of the social media platform TikTok. As well as being constantly filmed up close, they're often insulted in search of a reaction.
Messi lost his cool earlier this month amid the provocation from users of the app, a place where people can share and upload short video clips.
"You've already made a ton of the same videos, you can't spend your whole life making videos of me," he said.
Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong have been targeted, while defender Samuel Umtiti was accosted at a set of traffic lights -- briefly getting out of his car before getting back in -- as he left training by a group of youngsters shouting "Go to Barca B" at him.
Midfielder Pedri has been sought out at his home, and several players found people waiting for them at Barcelona-El Prat airport this week as they departed for international duty this week.
Barca have held preliminary talks with police about improving security around their training base when players arrive for and depart from training but have been told it would be difficult to prevent people from approaching the players' cars. -- Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens
La Liga battling with drone difficulties
The game at San Mames had to be paused in the 68th minute while the referee removed the device, which carried a flag opposing Euro 2020 matches being held at the venue. No players or officials were hurt, and play was able to resume immediately.
Spain are scheduled to play their three group stage matches in Bilbao, which was picked as one of 12 host cities for the tournament, drawing opposition from Basque nationalist groups.
A La Liga spokesperson told ESPN the league has been working on a project to prevent drones from flying over stadiums and endangering players and fans.
Under a deal agreed with Spain's Interior Ministry in December and formalised this month, La Liga will install "drone detection and neutralisation" systems inside stadia which will connect with the police's pre-existing anti-drone measures. Those systems will operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year -- not only when games are being played -- with costs covered by the league.
The most high-profile example of a drone interrupting a football match came in 2014, when Serbia's Euro 2016 qualifier with Albania had to be abandoned after a drone carrying an Albanian flag sparked a mass brawl involving players and fans. -- Alex Kirkland
Bale's Madrid comments taken 'out of context'
The Tottenham forward is on a season-long loan from the Bernabeu and caused a stir in a news conference with Wales on Tuesday when he seemed to state his intention to re-join Madrid when his loan spell ends.
"The original plan was to do a season at Spurs and after the Euros still have a year left at Real Madrid," Bale said. "My plan is to go back and that's as far I've planned, to be honest."
Barnett told ESPN it was "too early" to draw any conclusions about where Bale, whose Madrid contract expires in 2022, will play his football next season. Bale's words were intended as a statement of fact, reflecting the reality of a one-year loan, rather than a statement of intent.
The 31-year-old has scored 10 goals since joining Spurs -- five of them in the Premier League -- after a slow start to the season. Bale won four Champions Leagues and two La Liga titles in Madrid, but persistent injuries and a breakdown in his relationship with Zinedine Zidane saw him fall out of favour and finally secure a move away last September.
He has previously said he would "definitely be interested" in playing in Major League Soccer in the future. -- Alex Kirkland
Bailly's fears over Man United's defender search
The club have started negotiations with Bailly's representatives over extending the defender's deal, which is due to expire in 2022. Bailly is keen to stay at Old Trafford but has concerns over how much playing time he will get if United push ahead with plans to sign a new centre-back.
Solskjaer is a fan of the 26-year-old but there are concerns over his availability after suffering a number of injuries since arriving from Villarreal in a £30m move in 2016. He has made 20 or more appearances in just one of his four full seasons at the club and has featured 15 times so far this term.
Roma, Sevilla watch Lacazette developments
The striker will enter the final year of his contract at Arsenal this summer and the club face a decision whether to offer him a new deal or listen to offers for the 29-year-old, who would be able to negotiate with foreign clubs from next January if he hasn't signed a contract.
Lacazette is in a strong position, with the player an important figure in the Arsenal dressing room, sources said, and manager Mikel Arteta signaling his intention to offer him a new deal.
"I'm hoping that a player under contract will continue with us," Arteta has said but talks have yet to get underway.
Lacazette has scored 13 goals for Arsenal this season and is second to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the club's leading scorers' list. Atletico Madrid are long term admirers of the France international but Sevilla and Roma have joined the chase. -- Julien Laurens