What’s next for Erling Haaland? After a weekend in which the 21-year-old Borussia Dortmund striker told Viaplay that he felt pressured by his club to “make a decision soon” over his future, there is every chance that one of the best players in the world will be on the move in the coming months.
The Norway international is one of the most sought-after players in world football after scoring 79 goals in 78 appearances since moving to Dortmund from FC Salzburg for €20 million in 2019. Every top club in Europe wants to sign him and, with a reported release clause of €75m set to come into effect in 2022, clubs are circling to agree a deal with his agent, Mino Raiola, and father, Alf-Inge. So what are his possible destinations?
First, we asked ESPN’s resident scout for his thoughts on Haaland’s next club.
My money would be on Real Madrid, but I’d like to see him at Manchester City. For that to happen there might have to be a shift in Pep Guardiola’s way of looking at centre-forwards and in the club’s approach to the transfer market. While Guardiola tends to prefer technically gifted strikers who excel at combinations, Haaland would give City a more direct threat. He is someone who naturally moves into space, while this City side tend to provide a lot of service but often lack the presence of an expert poacher.
Guardiola’s team are successful at creating chances through cut-backs from the wingers and Haaland scores most of his goals from those kinds of situations. One can be a bit deceived by Haaland’s size and power. Yes, those are important qualities, but essentially he’s a brilliant finisher who likes to lurk in the penalty area.
Being quite an emotional player, I also think Haaland would thrive more in the Premier League than he would in Spain. He tends to respond to the crowd and raise his game on the big occasions. With the exception of the few top games, the atmosphere can feel a bit routine at LaLiga fixtures, especially at the Bernabeu where the crowds expect to be entertained. Real Madrid might get him, but City might be a better move for him as a player. — Tor-Kristian Karlsen
Something that might ultimately influence his future decision is the idols he had growing up. “He was born a striker, and always adored players who scored lots of goals, but two in particular: Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo,” his father Alf-Inge told Tuttosport in 2020. “He also had a weakness for Mario Balotelli at Manchester City. He’s never satisfied and trains constantly, because he wants to become the best. He’s super focused and lives for football.”
So, with that in mind, we had a host of ESPN writers break down Haaland’s transfer options on a club-by-club basis.
Gab Marcotti explains how Real Madrid have the finances for two huge transfers in the summer.
REAL MADRID (Alex Kirkland)
Pros: Madrid are keen on Haaland and have the financial firepower to get a deal done. The €200m they were willing to spend on Kylian Mbappe last summer is still burning a hole in their pocket and the departures of Gareth Bale, Isco and Marcelo — plus Eden Hazard if possible — will free up significant room on the wage bill. Madrid president Florentino Perez wants an exciting, young team to shine at the newly revamped Santiago Bernabeu stadium and Haaland fits the bill to be one of its stars, while learning from the incredible Karim Benzema.
Cons: Madrid’s absolute priority remains the signing of Mbappe from Paris Saint-Germain, sources have told ESPN. All other transfer business is secondary. It’s not clear how Haaland would feel about having to share the spotlight with the France forward, or even play second fiddle to him, at this stage of his career. Madrid also believe that Manchester City are well-positioned to rival them in the race for Haaland.
Chances of joining: 7/10
Janusz Michallik says Manchester City would become untouchable with Erling Haaland up front.
MANCHESTER CITY (Mark Ogden)
Pros: The benefit of moving to the Etihad is that he gets to play under Pep Guardiola in a league that will test his credentials and ultimately make him a better player. Haaland has proved himself in the Bundesliga, so he now needs to go next level by moving to the Premier League. Although the strength of clubs like Liverpool and Chelsea mean that no trophy can be guaranteed for City, they are approaching Bayern-style dominance as they close in on a fourth title in five seasons, so are a club that can offer almost guaranteed success. City also create chances galore and a prolific centre-forward would thrive on them.
Cons: City have now spent almost 18 months without a regular centre-forward (Sergio Aguero started just seven league games in his final season before leaving for Barcelona last summer). Their style of play, with as many as six attacking players selected in some games, means that they don’t need a classic No. 9 to score decisive goals. Having Haaland would mean City either change their approach and play to his strengths, or continue as they are and expect him to adapt his game to suit. Neither option is a bad one — Haaland would still score goals — but he may be better-suited to a team that wants a centre-forward as a focal point.
Guardiola demands that his forwards are multidimensional, comfortable on the ball and able to fit into a fluid system, so adapting would be a challenge. Also, if he signs for City, Haaland can forget about his dream of playing across Europe for some of the game’s most historic clubs. City don’t let their best players leave, so he would have to commit the best years of his career to the club.
Chances of joining: 7/10
Janusz Michallik feels the prospect of restoring Barcelona to their former glory may tempt Erling Haaland to move to the club.
BARCELONA (Sam Marsden)
Pros: There’s no doubt Barcelona want Haaland and president Joan Laporta met very publicly with Raiola and the striker’s father last year. Barca’s lack of goals in the post-Lionel Messi era has been painfully obvious this season — they scored just twice in six Champions League games as they exited the competition in the group stages — but the need for a new No. 9 predates Messi’s departure. Haaland is not just seen as a player to score goals, but someone to galvanise a club in construction. He would be a signing, like Ronaldinho’s in Laporta’s first presidency, to lead the team on the pitch and to improve their image around the world off it.
Cons: While Barca’s need for firepower is evident, there’s hope that the €55m signing of Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati‘s return from injury will change their fortunes in attack. With that in mind, would it be wise to invest so much money — when you are €1.4 billion in debt already — in a striker when there are gaps in defence? Gerard Pique is turning 35 soon, while Clement Lenglet and Samuel Umtiti are being pushed toward the exit door. Plus, despite Haaland’s incredible record with Dortmund, he is not guaranteed to succeed at Camp Nou. There is an ever-growing list of expensive signings that haven’t fit in at Barca, led by Ibrahimovic and including the recently departed Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho.
Chances of joining: 6/10
BAYERN MUNICH (Tom Hamilton)
Pros: Haaland would have a better shot at winning the Bundesliga and Champions League at Bayern, while also getting a chance to work under highly rated young manager Julian Nagelsmann. The Bavarians are known admirers of the striker and ESPN sources say there have been preliminary talks between the club and his agent. However, there are both pros and cons to linking up with the elite striker already at Bayern, Robert Lewandowski. Lewandowski would be a great teacher to learn from, that’s for sure. Plus, if the Poland captain decides to leave at the end of this season (with his contract up in 2023), then Haaland is the ready-made successor.
Cons: But Lewandowski, 33, is not done yet. If he stays and extends his contract, then Bayern would struggle to fit both strikers into their system. Being a long-term replacement does not fit with Haaland’s short-term plans. “We have Robert Lewandowski. He is still going to score 30-40 goals for a few more years,” Bayern CEO Oliver Kahn said at the turn of the year. Bayern may also not be able to match the wages on offer elsewhere, while Haaland’s loyalty to Dortmund might be such that he wouldn’t want to join one of their rivals. Plus, he has already shown himself to be a star in the Bundesliga and would likely want a new challenge. Perhaps Bayern could be a better option later in his career, given how keen the Bundesliga giants are to keep Lewandowski.
Chances of joining: 6/10
Gab Marcotti feels Ralf Rangnick’s advice that Man United should pursue Haaland and Bellingham shows he is settling in.
MANCHESTER UNITED (Rob Dawson)
Pros: Manchester United wanted to sign Haaland when he left FC Salzburg and will be in the queue again when the time comes for him to move on. They would get one of the best young strikers in the world — the type of talent who can inspire a new era of success. As for Haaland, he would instantly become a headline act at one of the biggest clubs in the game. Not many clubs can match United’s financial might or do more for a player’s profile. And of course both his idols, Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic, have played there.
Cons: Despite their interest, there is a worry at United that they are behind Real Madrid, Barcelona and Man City in the list of Haaland’s preferred destinations. Old Trafford is still a draw for top players but Haaland has made it clear he wants to win trophies and United haven’t been close to winning the Premier League since 2013, while they last reached the Champions League final in 2011. There’s a strong possibility that United might not even be in the Champions League next season and any Norway connection he might have felt with his former manager at Molde, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, has now gone with Solskjaer’s sacking.
Chances of joining: 5/10
PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN (Julien Laurens)
Pros: Haaland would be a great replacement for Mbappe if he departs, and would excel alongside Messi and Neymar as part of a new devastating front three in Paris. Like most players, the opportunity to play with Messi (who will be 35 in June) would be attractive, even if Ronaldo was his idol. Paris, as a city and a club, is very appealing for the Haaland brand too. His agent, Raiola, knows the place well and already represents some players in the squad. Plus, whether it’s Mauricio Pochettino or Zinedine Zidane as manager, Haaland would be among the favourites to win the Champions League and Ballon d’Or.
Cons: As good as Ligue 1 is, Haaland might not see it as a step up from the Bundesliga. Heading to LaLiga or the Premier League could be more attractive because they are bigger leagues with a bigger following and more money, certainly in England. The post-Mbappe era at PSG could be difficult to manage, considering how big the Frenchman’s boots will be to fill. And with Messi and Neymar still at the club, he won’t be the biggest star, certainly at the beginning of his career there.
Chances of joining: 5/10
CHELSEA (James Olley)
Pros: Not many clubs would be able to surpass Chelsea in terms of an overall financial package if they were to make an offer. Living in London is an obvious pull, as is the club’s ruthlessness in pursuing silverware. The Blues boast one of the world’s top coaches in Thomas Tuchel and their status as European champions offers genuine hope of further success.
Cons: Two words: Romelu Lukaku. ESPN reported at the time that Chelsea were keen on a move for Haaland prior to signing Lukaku for €115m from Inter Milan this summer, but a deal was too difficult to complete in the circumstances. There were also suggestions that Haaland was not completely sold on a move to England. Either way, the presence of Lukaku at Stamford Bridge now makes a move for Haaland highly unlikely. Lukaku would have to be moved on — a prospect that is not impossible given last month’s controversial interview in which he eyed a return to Italy — before any deal could be seriously discussed.
Chances of joining: 4/10
JUVENTUS (Andrew Cesare Richardson)
Pros: Although it an unlikely destination for Haaland, Juventus must always come into the conversation when any transfer involves a player represented by Raiola. The Italian side have a strong relationship with Raiola, having signed plenty of his clients in the past such as Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi and Matthijs de Ligt. Haaland joining Juve would be similar to his situation at Dortmund: It would be clear his stay was temporary but he would continue to improve, score goals, and potentially even compete for big trophies.
Cons: Finances. Juve simply do not have the money to compete, either for transfer fee or wages. Furthermore, Haaland is likely to want to join a team competing for the biggest trophies and that just isn’t Juventus right now. Despite rehiring manager Massimiliano Allegri in the summer, the club are further away than ever from winning the Champions League and face a fight just to qualify this campaign. Juve’s best hope of signing Haaland might be to wait for the latter stages of his career and see if they can tempt him on a free transfer.
Chances of joining: 1/10
Julien Laurens says Dortmund’s loss to Hertha Berlin will push Erling Haaland closer to the exit door.
STAY AT DORTMUND (Tom Hamilton)
Pros: While Haaland was a sensation at FC Salzburg, the move to Dortmund propelled him into a different football stratosphere and he is adored by the Westfalenstadion’s famous “Yellow Wall.” Staying another season at BVB will only heighten the interest in him, while it could buy his preferred options another year to reinforce their pandemic-hit finances and offer more money. The club will try to convince Haaland to sign a new deal — one that removes, or at least increases, his €75m release clause. “We are trying to persuade Erling to continue to play for Dortmund, and I don’t think our chances are too bad,” said director Sebastian Kehl earlier this year. “There are certainly a few more reasons why Haaland is in very good hands at Dortmund and why we as a club can continue to be a very good option for him.”
Cons: Dortmund might have burned their bridges by putting pressure on him. Haaland’s forthright statement suggested he was frustrated with how the club handled the situation and he is likely to be offered several monster deals that they can’t compete with. He may also feel the time is right to move abroad and try his hand at another league. Six points off Bayern at the top of the Bundesliga, and knocked out of the Champions League in the group stage, Dortmund’s chances of getting some silverware this season are as distant as they’ve ever been.
Chances of staying: 5/10