Erling Braut Haaland is the name on everyone’s lips right now.
The 20-year-old Norwegian marksman has been a revelation since joining Red Bull Salzburg in 2019 and could be months away from commanding an enormous transfer fee.
Borussia Dortmund, his present home and the club for whom he’s registered 49 goals across 49 matches in all competitions, may be resigned to a summer departure. Especially if the Bundesliga’s fifth-placed team at the time of writing fail to qualify for next season’s Champions League. But the question is, who should Haaland continue his footballing journey with?
According to his agent Mino Raiola, no fewer than 10 clubs can afford to sign him. So from that diminishing pool, who needs a once in a generation striker?
Below are contenders to become his next destination; a dream option, realistic choices, and wildcard selection.
Dream: Haaland harbouring a Premier League fantasy?
A return to England could be on the cards. Haaland was born in Leeds to former Premier League stalwart Alf-Inge Haaland, who last turned out for Manchester City. And that is where his son’s future may lie. Sergio Aguero will be leaving once the 2020/21 season concludes and Gabriel Jesus, for all his promise, has yet to truly explode and become a household name.
That said, considering the Citizens routinely fight on many fronts, Guardiola will want more than just one able ‘number nine’. Haaland, who has in the past confessed dreams of winning the Premier League (albeit with Leeds United and not necessarily the clubs mentioned in this section), might see following in his father’s footsteps as a necessity.
City’s present rivals to be English champions, Liverpool, are doing things differently under Jurgen Klopp, though he nominally prefers a false nine. That’s not to say Klopp wouldn’t deviate if Haaland was at his disposal, especially as he’s prone to giving youngsters opportunities and his record when it comes to developing talent may swing the pendulum. He’s already seen the Norwegian first-hand back when he was making a name for himself at former club Salzburg.
For many footballers, London is a glamorous prospect, though it’s fair to say those clubs situated in Britain’s capital aren’t exactly pulling up trees at the moment. That could soon change, however, with Thomas Tuchel still getting familiar with his current Chelsea surroundings. The Blues heavily invested last summer in order to recapture former glories and there’s one position they’ve yet to nail. Timo Werner can play centre-forward but is often utilised out wide, meaning the ‘number nine’ berth is up for grabs, despite the presence of Tammy Abraham.
Meanwhile, Haaland’s real rise to prominence came at Norwegian outfit Molde, where he enjoyed two seasons learning at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s feet. Both have since moved on to bigger and better things. Solskjaer, now managing Manchester United, raised a few eyebrows when he opted not to sign a replacement for the departing Belgian centre-forward Romelu Lukaku two summers ago, but that has been offset by Mason Greenwood’s promotion from the club’s esteemed academy.
Given they are still far away from re-establishing themselves as English football’s premier club, we could expect another big summer of spending with Haaland top of his list and the youngster has only fond memories of his former mentor. “He has had a huge impact on my life, both as a person and as a trainer,” he once told TV2. “He won the Champions League and was an incredibly good player. He has taught me a lot. I have dreamed of playing for the best clubs in the world my whole life, and I especially like English football.”
Squawka Suggests? Manchester City, although Guardiola played down the chances during Friday’s press conference.
“It is impossible. We cannot afford [to sign Haaland],” he said.
“All the clubs are struggling financially, us as well. We have Gabriel [Jesus], Ferran [Torres] who has been incredible, Raheem as a false nine.
“Today, there is more chance we don’t sign a striker.”
Realistic: It looks like Barcelona and Real Madrid have jumped the queue
Back when plying his trade for Salzburg, it was accurate to view Haaland as unproven in one of Europe’s most demanding leagues. That is no longer the case. He’s young but arguably in the conversation with Robert Lewandowski, Harry Kane and Luis Suarez as to who the best striker around is.
Juventus are one such club who have followed Haaland for some time now. Fabio Paratici, their sporting director, was keen to sign him from Molde in 2018, but Haaland (rightly) saw a move then as detrimental to his development. Lining up alongside the evergreen Cristiano Ronaldo is a dream for many footballers, but Haaland doesn’t seem the kind to bow down to a cult of personality, but what about potentially following Lionel Messi’s footsteps?
Barcelona’s main man could exit the Camp Nou this summer though penning a new deal is still on the table. Either way, joining the Catalan giants ultimately means taking over the reins and that is a daunting prospect whichever way you look at it. But to say Haaland lacks confidence would be incorrect, and so equally true is that playing for Real Madrid in front of some of club football’s most demanding fans would not faze him.
Raiola and his father were filmed arriving for a meeting with Barcelona this week. It is also widely reported that another meeting was helf with Real Madrid though Chelsea boss Tuchel feels the super agent was “creating a race” for his signature.
Squakwa Suggests? Barcelona. Although it’s fair to say Real are seeking a goalscorer this summer, reports suggest Los Blancos are eyeing long-term target Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappé, making Haaland second choice on Florentino Pérez’s transfer wish list. This piece of knowledge could easily influence Haaland’s final decision if Spain does indeed end up being his latest footballing home.
Wildcard: The long game…
Haaland has the world at his feet. That is undisputed. Hopefully, those around him offer sensible advice in terms of constructing a path forward. He could speak to compatriot Martin Odegaard about the perils of joining an elite ‘super club’ too early. Fortunately, playing for Dortmund means he’s already battle-hardened, making the next step an easier one to embark on.
If Haaland feels he’s outgrown BVB, that’s one thing. But his current deal with the Bundesliga outfit expires in June 2024, meaning there’s no harm staying put for another season or two. Things become tricky, however, when the player and club are not in sync when it comes to ambition. If Dortmund can’t offer Haaland domestic and Champions League glory, he’ll understandably seek new pastures.
One piece of good news is regional powerhouse Bayern Munich will not be in the hunt for his services. “I don’t know where the rumours have come from. I can only say one thing: we have the world’s best footballer in this position. Robert Lewandowski has a contract until 2023,” CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told Bild.