"Erling Haaland scores" are probably the three most overused consecutive words in football today. And yet, it is somehow not enough. Haaland seems to be doing whatever he can. He runs. hunts, harries, torments, and scores. He still has to shout expletives. It is just not happening for Dortmund. Too gloomy even for football's brightest star to light up.
Haaland is among the most elite goalscorers in the world currently. It took the striker only 14 games to reach 20 Champions League goals. He is the youngest and fastest to that mark in the history of the competition. In fact, nobody else has achieved this feat before turning 21. Haaland is only 20. He is the generational talent of this era. The creme de la creme of our time. One half of the heirs apparent to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi's duopoly.
Haaland's rise has been meteoric over the last twelve months. There is little doubt that he was always destined for greatness. However, not even his most ardent fans would have predicted the speed at which he has become a global phenomenon. And his personal ambitions have outrun Dortmund's pace - barely 16 months from signing with the Germans.
Haaland - Why leave?
This is exactly what Dortmund are scarily good at doing. They scout talent, turn them into superstars and profit from their sales. However, this time, it is different and even the masters have been hoodwinked. This was supposed to be their Jadon Sancho summer. The Germans played hardball with Manchester United last season. They were safe with the knowledge that Sancho would go in 2021 and Haaland would wait a year. So much so that Haaland's release clause of €75 million would only activate in July 2022.
This figure seems a gross undervaluation now. Almost funny. Haaland is a Mino Raiola client. If he stays till 2022, Dortmund make almost nothing compared to what they could now. In that very fear, Dortmund seem to have given Haaland the go-ahead to find himself a new club this summer.
And so, agent and father have begun an expedition. They are traveling to Europe's richest and most prestigious suitors with the aim of finding a new ship for their astonishing sailor. Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester. All big teams and different dynamics. Here is an analysis of how Haaland fits into the rumoured teams.
Haaland transfer to Barcelona
FC Barcelona was the first club Raiola's entourage visited. The history and heritage of this team is common knowledge. Barcelona is footballing royalty - in Spain and the world. At various points in this century, Barcelona have assembled teams that have mesmerised onlookers. It is believed - between 2009 and 2011 - they had the best ever club football team in the history of the game.
However, the recent past has not been kind to the Blaugrana. Their troubles were brutally exposed by a rampant Bayern Munich. 8-2 in the Champions League. Surgically cut apart with little remorse. It left a sour taste in many mouths. Messi almost left the club. Former President Josep Bartomeu did leave the club. And Barcelona are now rebuilding under former successful president, Joan Laporta.
What works for Barcelona
The new man at the helm has promised his utmost to keep Messi. Ansu Fati will be back from injury next season. Antoine Griezmann is rediscovering his old touch. That would leave only hole to plug - centre forward. And Haaland is the best man in world football to fill that gap. He is direct, pacy and good in the air. All traits Barcelona severely lack in the forward line. He will have no dearth of supply with an elite creator in Messi pulling the strings. And Barcelona, despite their crises, will always challenge for the top titles.
What does not work
Barcelona are in serious debt. And the situation is worsened because most of it is short-term debt. Haaland is not going to be an economic buy - in salary and wages. If Barcelona are indeed going for Haaland, it is a future which does not include Messi. The financial situation of the club and the wider world leaves space for just one.
However, there is double jeopardy for Barcelona. If Messi's decision to leave is irreversible, it could also mean Haaland's move falls through. Haaland is developing fine at Dortmund and the only reason he wants to move is to win. And Barcelona, in the immediate future, may not win the big ones without Messi.
Haaland to Real Madrid
Reports stated that Raiola moved from Catalonia to Madrid on the same day. There is speed in this operation. Perhaps even quicker than his client's goalscoring prowess. And prowess is a word that can be seamlessly synced with Real Madrid. The Spanish team is the most successful team in the Champions League. They have 13 titles. The second and third placed sides combined have as many. In Spain, they have 34 domestic league titles - the most in their land.
What works for Real Madrid
And they are looking to replace their departed superstar - Ronaldo. The Madrid squad is now ageing and there is a transition going on in the Spanish capital. In this shuffle, Madrid did not sign anyone last summer. And that is very unlike them. Hence, expect Los Blancos to make a splurge in the transfer market this summer. And what better way to replace the club's top scorer than to buy world football's hottest young goalscorer. Once again, Haaland's personal style matches everything Real Madrid wants to do. He is adept at both, keeping the ball and playing on the break.
Real also have the profile to attract Haaland. Despite their shaky campaign last season, they are the defending champions in Spain. Real Madrid's portfolio attracts global superstars and they have a proven winner as manager. The history and tradition of the club makes it a natural habitat for Haaland's lofty ambitions. And, they seem to have the money too.
What does not work
The financial crisis following COVID-19 caused a serious dent in the cash reserves across Spanish football. Real Madrid's inactivity last summer was a natural consequence. And this summer, they have enough to make one thrifty purchase. Mbappe or Haaland? Anybody's guess. Mbappe's advantage is that he can play across the front line. And his ability to play wide allows Benzema to continue as a centre forward. Hazard's constant injuries have meant Real have to replace two men at once. Mbappe could be the answer and he has fulfilled this role for France - from wide right.
It depends on Madrid which need is more pressing - goals from Haaland or the overall resourcefulness of Mbappe. There is also the aspect of Zidane and his french connection to Mbappe. Time will tell.
Haaland to Manchester City
City are one of the top teams in Europe currently. They have won the league title four times since 2011 and are on course to adding a fifth this season. City are a legitimate draw these days. They compete for the top trophies in England and in Europe. Haaland will have the opportunity of writing his legacy in bold letters if he can make it big in the blue side of Manchester
What works for Manchester City
City play an attractive brand of football. Silky Passing, controlled movement, geometric precision. Followed by frenzied tiki-taka, hyperactive movement and deadly finishing. They are a team that have replicated most good things from Barcelona's pomp minus Messi. They have an elite creator, fantastic dribblers, good game-breakers, fine game controllers and pacy wingers. City are as complete a team as is in world football today.
The only missing link is a centre forward, with Sergio Aguero's departure imminent. Haaland could be the final piece to the jigsaw that has led to puzzling European reversals. Oftentimes, City's creative players are let down in crucial moments. Haaland's superior finishing ability could make City the unstoppable force in Europe they so often look in England.
The Norwegian striker's father had also represented Manchester City and that presents a workable link for the club to leverage.
What does not work
Pep Guardiola has admitted that City do not have the money to pursue a centre-forward. This narrative is difficult to believe given City's recent history in the transfer market. There are also reports stating the relation between Guardiola and Raiola are sour. Furthermore, City have found a way to play without a striker. Their band of versatile midfielders have all been deployed to play a false 9 role. Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden have played the deceit with good success.
However, going into a season with only one recognized number 9 seems a stretch for an elite club. If not Haaland, maybe someone else.
Haaland to Manchester United
It's been nearly 8 years since Manchester United last won the league. Yet, they remain a mega draw. Manchester United is still box-office. Perhaps they will always be. And no big transfer saga is ever complete without red Mancunian association.
United are in rebuild. This time, it seems proper. Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seems to be headed in the right direction and among other needs, the Red Devils need a bona fide number 9.
What works for Manchester United
Haaland and Solskjaer have worked together before. There is familiarity to call upon. Between 2017 and December 2018, Solskjaer was Haaland's manager at Molde. And the player himself has admitted to the positive contribution of Solskjaer in his growth. The former Manchester United player is known to be a very good man manager and is believed to have a good relation with Haaland.
There are similarities beyond the obvious. Haaland and United - at their flowing best - seem to have similar quirks. Both make football look unbelievably simple. They play with such ferocity and speed that it leaves the viewers jawslacked. As though they trample the opposition through to the shortest path to goal. It is intense.
There is of course the difference of frequency. Haaland does it more often than United have recently. However, United have done it recently and that is what makes this potential association mouth-watering. Imagine United's victories against City, PSG and RB Leipzig - counter attacking football of dizzying speed and penetrative menace. Now, add Haaland to that mix.
What does not work
United and Raiola have a storied history of fall outs and bitter exchanges. And Paul Pogba has been in the midst of most such interactions. In such circumstance, the United board may refuse another big-ticket Raiola client who might want to explore a different challenge in a few years' time.
Money is certainly not a sticking point for this club. However, they also have other gaps to plug - central defence, defensive midfield and right wing. There are multiple fronts to work out for this to come true. But Ed Woodward and company are known to love a statement signing.