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Is Erling Haaland’s exit proving too costly for RB Salzburg?

Thursday 5th March 2020
RB Salzburg are missing Erling Haaland and Takumi Minamino. Perhaps they should have waited until summer to sell their prized assets.
RB Salzburg are missing Erling Haaland and Takumi Minamino. Perhaps they should have waited until summer to sell their prized assets.

RB Salzburg had little or no chance of holding on to Erling Braut-Haaland after the teenager's exploits this season. But the club may be regretting letting him go in the middle of the campaign. The reigning Austrian champions were on course to another league title before choosing to sell their starman to Borussia Dortmund in January. The next best thing was also snatched away when Liverpool signed Takumi Minamino. Although the Japanese hasn't been able to replicate his performance at Salzburg with his new club, Haaland has been on fire in Dortmund.

But Die Mozartstadter have been left to leak their wounds resulting from the devastating losses. The worst part of the story is that the Austrian side didn't even get paid handsomely for their superstars. Getting Minamino for just £7.6 million is a real steal for Liverpool. And that is an understatement for Dortmund's acquisition of Haaland in today's transfer market. The club paid a measly £18million for the Norwegian hotshot. A look at what the German side is demanding for Jadon Sancho says it all.

Yet, Salzburg have been stripped almost bare of its most potent ammunition. The team's performance since the striking prodigy left has been disappointing. After falling to a 3-2 league defeat at home to title rivals LASK in mid-February, the team lost 4-1 away to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League. Next was a 2-2 draw away at Austria Wien before playing out the same scoreline against Frankfurt in the reverse fixture.

A recent 3-2 league loss to Attach effectively ended the club's hopes of securing a seventh successive league title. It's arguable that the team would have successfully defended the title if Haaland was still in the team. The 19-year-old netted 16 times in 14 league appearances for the side this season before his departure. He could have made the difference in the last five matches going by what he's been doing at Dortmund since his arrival in Germany.

The League Cup remains the only trophy that could grace the Red Bulls Arena silverware cabinet this term. But the team must overcome LASK in the semi-final to progress. The team's current form suggests that would be a huge task. But for a side that has dominated Austrian football in the last several years, failure to keep up with the pace could lead to a shift in the balance of power.

However, the club can take steps to prevent a downward spiral.

Although some players like Patson Daka and Hee-chan Wang have stepped up, it hasn't been enough. The Zambian forward has scored 16 times in the league so far, and came on as a second-half substitute in the last game to provide an assist. But it proved inadequate as the team still lost to Altach. It's clear the club will need to follow a winning formula to get back on top. No team will lose such a productive player like Haaland and not feel the impact. And so adequate replacements must be sought.

Fortunately for the side, it's not in a league with other dominant teams as is the case in the Premier League. The likes of Manchester United and Arsenal now find it very difficult rising back to the top after losing ground to Manchester City and now Liverpool. Monaco has not been the same since losing key players in the last few seasons.

At a time like this, the solution will come from both the scouting system and sticking to the values of expansive and attractive football. After all, that's what brought the club so much success in the first place. The club may need to wait until next season to start afresh, but making the right recruitments in the summer will be vital. 

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Emmanuel Odey

Emmanuel is a freelance journalist who lives and breathes the round leather game. He is a contributor on several platforms. You can follow him on Twitter for more.

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