Haaland to Man Metropolis, Man United, Juve? As the sport’s greatest star proper now, he can decide any membership he desires
There has never been a football player as popular as Erling Haaland. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo may have been the dream signatures for any top club in the world for the past decade and Kylian Mbappe could one day join that group but none of them are currently in the position Haaland now enjoys. He can choose which A-list team he likes.
Barcelona have paid Messi so well over the years and won so many trophies that it is only now, shortly before his 34th birthday, that he can start thinking about taking advantage of his free agent status this summer. But even if he continues, his enormous wages and demands will severely limit his options.
Juventus forward Ronaldo had similar ties to Manchester United and Real Madrid during the prime of his career until those clubs felt able to let him go. The financial strength of Paris Saint-Germain will always give Mbappe some control over the 22-year-old’s future – even if he’s a wanted man.
Haaland’s situation is different: the unique combination of the incredible talent and contractual situation of the 20-year-old at Borussia Dortmund means that he will step in this summer as a player with the world at his feet. He’s the hottest player in the game and at a time when almost all leading clubs need a productive center-forward. Haaland and his advisors are smart enough to know they can step back and watch the scramble over his signature unfold.
In October 2019, shortly after Haaland scored a hat trick for FC Salzburg on his Champions League debut against Genk, his father Alfie told ESPN that every step in Erling’s career would be taken with great thoughts rather than the first opportunity come along to jump.
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“When he has a choice, you have to be careful what you choose,” said Alfie. “We look at the history of the club, the manager and his philosophy.”
Two months later, Haaland refused to move from Salzburg to Man United in favor of Dortmund, as moving to Germany offered a development path. Sources have told ESPN that Haaland and its advisors believe the decision is justified and that any future step is taken with the same long-term perspective.
There is a growing likelihood that the next step will take place this summer, a year before a € 75m (£ 64.5m) release clause can be triggered on his Dortmund deal. Dortmund know that by the end of this season they can sell at least twice as much. If you don’t move up from sixth to the top 4 in the Bundesliga and qualify for the Champions League, selling your valuable assets can become a financial necessity.
But where is Haaland most likely going? Don’t be fooled, he just follows the money and signs the most lucrative deal on the table.
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Almost every big club in the world wants it. United tried and failed to sign him last season, but manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continues to view the player he coached at Molde as a teenager as his # 1 target.
Chelsea also believe they can strike a deal for the Norwegian and lure him to Stamford Bridge, while Manchester City, after realizing the need to sign a long-term replacement for non-contract Sergio Aguero, emerges as the lead candidate for Sign the Son by Alfie, who made 41 appearances for City between 2000 and 2002.
The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to hurt Liverpool’s competitiveness but they are interested nonetheless as Real Madrid are regularly linked with a big cash pull for the player in the Spanish media.
Erling Haaland scored two more goals against Bayern Munich on Saturday. Sebastian Widmann / Getty Images
Juventus has been on the hunt for Haaland since his time at Molde and could return if Ronaldo leaves and clears space on the payroll, while Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick said: “A lot is possible in life, I can’t rule that out.” “When asked whether Haaland had scored twice against Bayern over the weekend, whether the European champions would be interested in signing him.”
Sources close to Haaland are not going to express a preference for their next club, but they know that interest from all of the above is genuine and that each team presents a different challenge and opportunity. They all have their advantages and disadvantages as well.
From the outside, City seems to offer the perfect package. They have the financial strength to hit a deal and, under Pep Guardiola, they offer probably the strongest guarantee to challenge big trophies. The city is desperate to win the Champions League, just like Haaland, and it is clear that together they would be an impressive force.
But Haaland is a player with ambitions to play in all major European leagues, much like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and moving to City would make it difficult. City is simply not losing its star players, so a move to Etihad would be long-term.
United, on the flip side, would sell the challenge of being the man to bring the club back to the top with a modern take on Eric Cantona. United has lost its place among the elite clubs competing for the biggest prizes, but the commercial value for Haaland to be their star would be enormous given United’s worldwide popularity and that could be a compelling proposition – especially if Solskjaer stays near Haaland, continues as manager.
Chelsea could compete with the money City and United would offer and use London’s pull to lure Haaland to Stamford Bridge. Only City has won more trophies in England in the last 10 years, so Haaland would sign for a club that can win silver, even though it is not consistent enough due to the ever-shorter shelf life of its managers.
Liverpool’s slump in recent weeks could cost them a spot in next season’s Champions League and end weak hopes of signing Haaland. However, if he’s tempted to play at Anfield and join the club’s list of iconic names, that’s the romantic allure of signing for the Premier League champions.
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Real Madrid can surpass United in terms of global attractiveness and star quality. You can also give Haaland a chance to dominate the league, like Ronaldo and Messi have over the years. And although the Champions League pedigree is a big draw, doubts remain as to whether Real can afford Haaland after the pandemic.
Juventus can offer Champions League football and one more step towards one more step. If Haaland is successful in Italy, he could travel to England or Spain before he is in his mid-20s.
And then there are the Bavarians. Robert Lewandowski has already shown the riches waiting for a center forward ready to leave Dortmund for the Allianz Arena and Haaland could be the perfect long-term successor to the 32-year-old Polish international. But just like a move to City, Bayern would offer trophies, but they could also expect it to stay 10 years.
However, Haaland can only emerge victorious. With such a number of outstanding thugs on his tail, it is impossible to make a bad choice. Sources have made it clear to ESPN that the only factor not driving Haaland’s next decision is money. It’s about the most tempting challenge and the most exciting story. This chapter has yet to be written.