When Manchester United’s negotiators Ed Woodward and Matt Judge walked away from talks over Norwegian wonderkid Erling Braut Haaland in January, the path they took is looking increasingly like a one-way street.
United were going head-to-head with Borussia Dortmund to sign the 19-year-old, whose fee was set at €20 million (£18m) plus bonuses. But despite the personal connection with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who mentored him at Norwegian side Molde, and the Red Devils’ much higher wage offer, they lost out on the deal because they refused to include a €75 million (£67m) buy-out clause in his contract.
That decision is one that the club is living to regret.
Haaland’s progress at Borussia Dortmund has been phenomenal. He has scored 33 goals in just 31 games and is already the quickest player to reach 16 goals in the Champions League (12 games), beating the previous record of United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy, who took 19 games. Haaland recently won the prestigious Golden Boy award by a massive majority and is fast becoming the most sought-after player in world football.
And despite their millions and Woodward’s famous 2014 claim that United can ‘do things in the transfer market that other clubs can only dream of,’ there seems little chance that Haaland will now ever wear the famous red jersey.
Dortmund’s director of football Michael Zorc is fully aware that the infamous release clause kicks in from June 2022 and has already started posturing. He was quoted yesterday (via The MEN) as saying ‘”We plan for the long term with Erling. [Rumours] do not have to be dealt with at all.
‘I will see him with us for a long time.’
But despite his words, the vultures are circling – and growing in number.
‘His perennial state of scoring euphoria has kept him in los Blancos’ orbit. They will prioritize the purchase of Mbappé (and even Camavinga) in 2021 but in 2022 they plan to go for the Norwegian,’ says AS.
‘The fans, in an AS poll, prefer Haaland (64% of the votes) to the PSG star (36%).’
‘In addition to Dortmund’s public position we must add another difficulty for Madrid: the high competition. Juventus sees Haaland as the ideal replacement for Cristiano (35 years old), just as Bayern want him to be Lewandowski’s heir.’
El Chiringuito agrees. ‘Los Meringues will have to overcome the competition of numerous clubs. Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Manchester United make up an extensive list of suitors on which FC Barcelona also has a place.
‘One of the candidates for the Barcelona presidency, Joan Laporta, could take advantage of the good relationship he maintains with his agent, the controversial Mino Raiola, to bring Haaland to the Camp Nou if he is elected.’
Of course, many would argue that United were right to refuse to agree a contract with a buyout clause and would themselves be facing the same prospect of losing Haaland in 18 months had he signed for them.
On the other hand, if Haaland had been able to help United back to the world’s elite in that time, there would arguably be no reason he would want to leave the world’s biggest club.
We will never know what could have been.
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