Erling Haaland’s transfer saga stands like a clueless teenager moving out of the house for the first time, with luggage at crossroads without any certainty of where to go next.
The Norwegian’s exit from Borussia Dortmund and Bundesliga seems inevitable.
The club he picks next has been the subject of passionate debates. Big European clubs are looking at him and his handler, a super-agent named Mino Riola (think the money man behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba).
When Haaland signed for Borussia Dortmund in 2019, he had a release clause attached to his contract, which would allow him to leave the club for 75 million euros this year – half of what he is worth right now as per transfermarkt.
The football world, with massive transfer budgets and corporate sharks injecting billions into the market, has seen transfers, way more expensive in the last few years.
Haaland has scored 25 goals and assisted a further eight in 26 matches so far this season, with a goal contribution of 1.27 goals per match. And, he is 21.
Where did the prodigy begin?
Haaland was born in Leeds, UK. His parents were active sportspersons, and moved to Norway shortly after his birth. His father, Alf-Inge played for Nottingham Forest and Manchester City, while his mother, Gry Maria Braut, was a heptathlete.
Haaland honed his football skills in Byrne, a small town over 300 miles off Oslo. It was here that he made his debut for the local club Bryne FK, the same club where his father started.
Talking to Goal , Alf Ingve Berntsen, Haaland's first coach, said his first two touches had led to goals and his ability was so good that he made him play with boys a year older.
In 2015, while playing for Norway against Sweden in age-group matches, John Vik, the head scout of FC Molde spotted him. “Mentally he looked on a different planet,” he had later told The First Time Finish.
Vik has a reputation for spotting influential strikers. Former Manchester United legend and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is among the players he spotted.
It was Vik who guided Haaland to Molde, where the past and future of Norway’s attack – Solskjaer and Haaland worked together, with the former managing the side back then.
Rejecting Juventus for Salzburg
Juventus, which often picks young prodigies from all around Europe, showed interest in Haaland in 2018. At that point, Cristiano Ronaldo has joined the Italian giant. However, Haaland chose a move to Red Bull Salzburg from Molde.
Talking to BBC , Haaland said, “I thought it was too early to go there. Salzburg was the club that suited me the best and I also think it was very important to look at how important a part I was going to play for the club I joined. There is more of a chance of playing here."
Haaland made a mark in Salzburg, forcing scouts and clubs all around the world to stop and take notice of the teenager weaving his magic on the fields of Austria.
He opened both the 2019/20 Austrian league season as well as the Champions League season with hat-tricks, becoming the fourth-youngest goalscorer (third-youngest then) in the history of the UEFA Champions League at 19 years and 58 days.
He also became the first teenager in the history of the UEFA Champions League to score in five consecutive appearances in the competition.
Within six months at Salzburg, Haaland scored 28 goals in 22 matches, and seven assists. He won the league with Salzburg, the Austrian Cup, and the Austrian Player of the season in 2019.
Manchester United’s failed pursuit and move to Dortmund
Haaland became one of the most sought after prospects in Europe after his spell at Salzburg and with a release clause of just 22.5 million euros, more than 20 clubs scouted him, including Manchester United, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Bayern Munich.
Manchester United led the race for a long time with Solskjaer (his former coach at Molde) in charge, but the club refused to contract demands by his father and agent Riola.
Borussia Dortmund finally ended up with his signature in December 2019, as the 19-year-old signed a contract till 2024.
In his two-and-half years at St. Iduna Park, Haaland has scored 82 goals and notched up 23 assists in 85 matches. In May 2021, he scored twice as Dortmund won the German Super Cup, beating RB Leipzig.
In the 2021-22 season, however, the 21-year-old struggled with injuries, with a thigh injury stifling his season for a few months.
When he returned, he was back on target and became the quickest to 50 goals in Bundesliga history, scoring the goals in 50 appearances.
Heartbreak with the National Team
The club versus country debate for footballers has been a constant among fans, with Lionel Messi, Neymar and Haaland’s fellow Scandinavian Zlatan, all the centre of attention.
Though the Norwegian is just 21 years old, his goal-scoring prowess has drawn comparisons with Zlatan.
Zlatan, Sweden’s highest goal scorer of all time, saw his team get eliminated from the FIFA World Cup 2022 race with a loss to Poland in the playoffs.
Haaland saw Norway embrace the same fate way earlier, with his injury playing a key role in Norways’s defeats in the qualifiers.
Haaland was unavailable for selection for the matches against Turkey and Montenegro, with Norway’s loss against Turkey making it almost impossible for it to qualify.
At the international level, Haaland’s goal-scoring streak has continued nevertheless. In the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2019, when Norway beat Honduras 12-0, it was the heaviest defeat by any team in the history of the tournament.
Erling Haaland had nine goals to his name alone, the most scored by a player in a single match in the U-20 World Cup ever.
Cut to 2022 – the Haaland transfer saga
With Haaland’s release clause active this summer, his transfer news has dominated the sports pages and websites. Haaland, after all, is available on the transfer market, without the liability of a gargantuan sum of money to be paid to Dortmund.
Manchester City, PSG and Real Madrid are the clubs vying for his signature. Bayern Munich has seemingly pulled out.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has insisted that ‘ the club needs a striker, definitely ’, but has denied any clear interest in Haaland.
However, the Spanish manager has had a history of denying players’ transfers and eventually ended up signing them. Remember the "too expensive" Jack Grealish signing?
Haaland’s release clause is way lower than Grealish's.
Other than the Premier League leader, Barcelona, Real Madrid and PSG have also been linked with Haaland. Real needs to think of life after its captain and striker Karim Benzema, still a performer, but 34 years old.
Real kept expenses in check last season in its pursuit of a new No. 9 and has Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland on its shortlist.
If Mbappe stays put at Paris Saint-Germain alongside Lionel Messi, or goes elsewhere, Los Blancos will look to move for the Norwegian.
Only four clubs in England can afforf Haaland: Mino Raiola
Mino Raiola, the player's agent had told BBC in February that only our clubs in England can afford Erling Haaland after his form in Borussia Dortmund.
It is obvious that everybody is looking at Erling as one of those potential new future stars because it's so difficult to do what he does at his age at his level," he said.
"He will be one of the future stars of the next decade because we see that stars such as Ibrahimovic, Ronaldo and Messi are coming to an age where everyone asks themselves: 'How long can we still enjoy them?' So everyone is looking for the new generation."
"Only a maximum of 10 clubs can afford to buy Haaland and give the platform you would like after you've been in Dortmund, and four of those clubs are in England," he added.