When Manchester United fans read transfer stories about Norwegian striker Erling Haaland, they are probably put in mind of Al Pacino’s famous line from The Godfather 3: ‘Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.’
The United faithful went through a torrid December as they saw the gifted 19-year-old slip through the club’s fingers at the eleventh hour after months of speculation and join Borussia Dortmund instead.
That was that, or so we thought. But here we are just five months on and Haaland is already the subject of intense transfer speculation again.
The Leeds-born player exploded onto the German scene in January, scoring a hat trick on his debut – a 34 minute appearance off the bench against Augsberg – and twelve goals in eleven games overall. This has rocketed him into another level of desirability and he has quickly become the top target of none other than Real Madrid.
The Red Devils have been reported to still be keen on the young star and ready to come in for a second bite at the cherry.
It is certainly no surprise that Real would want to pursue Haaland and in the current climate it would make sense that they would focus more on him than on their other reported attacking target Kylian Mbappe, whose asking price is likely to be in excess of £130 million.
It is also no surprise that United would still want the player, whom Ole Gunnar Solskjaer managed at Molde.
The crucial issue in any move for the Norwegian, and one which journalists do not seem able to agree on, concerns his buyout clause.
When Haaland signed for Dortmund, it was commonly reported that a €75 million (£65 million) release clause was included in his contract. Indeed, many reports claimed that United pulled out of negotiations because they refused to include such a release clause in their contract.
If such a release clause indeed exists, Haaland still represents excellent value for money and there would be nothing to stop los Blancos – or United – from activating it at the end of this season.
However, ESPN among others are now saying that the release clause only comes into effect in January 2021, The Mirror and others say it cannot be triggered until 2022 and Spanish outlet AS reports that Dortmund deny the existence of the release clause altogether.
Whilst ESPN’s January 2021 date seems the most plausible as it would guarantee Dortmund a minimum of one year of the player’s services, it still does not bar any club for making a bid for the striker sooner. If a cheeky bid of, say, €10 million over the buyout figure were to come in over the summer, the German club might be tempted to take it rather than hold on another six months and lose their main striker half way through the 2020/21 campaign.
In the words of Marlon Brando from the first Godfather movie, someone – perhaps Ed Woodward – could make Dortmund an offer they can’t refuse.
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