Why Borussia Dortmund is perfect for Erling Haaland
Background photo: Ra Boe, CC BY-SA 3.0 de
Young players who rise overnight and earn major transfers shouldn't shock football fans anymore. Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt and Joao Felix all switched clubs for sizeable fees in the past few years. Now, it's Erling Haaland's turn.
After a stellar half-season with RB Salzburg, the Norwegian is a household name to football fans all over the globe. Twenty-eight goals in 22 appearances for the Austrian Bundesliga champions, including eight in six Champions League group matches against Liverpool, Napoli and Genk, warrant attention. His talent is undeniable.
With the group stage complete and the winter transfer window on the horizon, elite clubs lined up for his signature. Manchester United and Juventus appeared to be the frontrunners. While the Red Devils fought a tug of war with the Old Lady, Borussia Dortmund snuck in to snatch the player away from both.
Although Haaland's numbers rival those of Mbappe and Joao Felix in their short spells with Monaco and Benfica, the fee paid by Dortmund is a steal in comparison. BVB acquired the 19-year-old for a meagre €25 million. He signed a five-year contract with the club, giving the German outfit leverage when United and Juve come chasing the teenager again, as they surely will. From the player's perspective, however, Dortmund is an excellent choice to further his development,
Reports say Haaland turned down more lucrative offers. Transfermarkt valued him at a conservative €45 million before the transaction was announced, making that easy to believe. With Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford automatic selections for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Mason Greenwood first off the bench, regular minutes weren't guaranteed at Old Trafford. Maurizio Sarri can call upon Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain and Federico Bernardeschi. Starting at the Juventus Stadium was even less likely.
While Dortmund are well-stocked in attack themselves, there remains greater opportunity at the Westfalenstadion. Marco Reus, currently recovering from a muscle injury, lines up as the No. 10. Paco Alcacer leads the line but the Spaniard is prone to injury as well. The La Masia graduate appeared in 15 of Die Schwarzgelben's 26 games before the winter break without once lasting the full 90 minutes. He missed seven matches with knee and Achilles issues and was an unused substitute on four occasions. Last season, he went missing eight times through various knocks and sat for three more after joining the club on loan from Barcelona on Matchday 2. Manager Lucien Favre cannot rely on him to contribute a heavy workload. Meanwhile, England international Jadon Sancho is reportedly unhappy, ill-disciplined and seeking a return to England. Only Thorgan Hazard, on the left flank, is an evergreen presence in Favre's starting XI.
With a more direct route to the first team, Haaland's development won't stall with the Yellow and Blacks. If his work in the Champions League is any indication, he will make his mark in short order. Dortmund's expansive style of play will bring the best out of him.
That said, Dortmund is not the youngster's final destination. Not with an ambitious agent like Mino Raiola representing his interests. A truly big-money move is in his future and fans shouldn't expect to wait more than a season or two for it to happen.