How Borussia Dortmund beat the likes of Juventus and Manchester United to Erling Haaland signing
Following his groundbreaking performance at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Poland over the last summer, Erling Braut Haaland completed a transfer to Austrian heavyweights RB Salzburg.
The 19-year-old was earmarked as one of the teenagers to watch out for in the Champions League group stage and he did not disappoint, outscoring everyone except Robert Lewandowski with eight goals from just six matches in the group stage.
His performances on the continent as well as domestically (where he scored 20 goals from 16 matches) led to him being monitored by several clubs, with top sides like Juventus and Manchester United all speculated to be interested.
The fact that he began his developmental strides under the tutelage of current Manchester United coach Ole Gunner Solskjaer led many to believe that Old Trafford was his next destination, with numerous publications carrying stories involving meetings between his camp and the United hierarchy.
However, in shocking scenes, Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund practically swept in unexpectedly and won the race to sign the highly-rated youngster, capturing him in a deal reportedly worth €20m.
The covert operation to sign Haaland
Given the financial muscle and clout of their competitors, Dortmund did not stand much of a chance by going head-on with the likes of Manchester United and Juventus, instead, they deployed other tactics that included emotional appeals and consolidating on their strong connection with his agent Mino Raiola.
According to a report by The Athletic, BVB have been watching Haaland since he was 16 and have watched him in person 88 times over the last three years and this long-term interest played in their favour compared to others who are relatively new suitors.
There were, however, doubts over whether he could translate his form from the Norwegian league onto a higher stage like the Bundesliga but these doubts were cleared when he showed his pedigree in the Champions League.
One of the tipping factors that saw Dortmund win the race is their close relationship with the notoriously demanding Mino Raiola (a relationship that has been fostered since they signed Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Shakhtar Donestk despite strong interest from Liverpool), as whereas most other clubs are wary of the super agent, BVB have conducted successful dealings with him.
Other ploys also included asking the president of Puma (Dortmund's shirt sponsors) Bjorn Gulden to try and convince his countryman to join the Bundesliga side (with offers of a better contract in place of the personal deal he has with Nike).
Haaland was further won over by the fact that his interests would be best served by turning out for Dortmund, as most of his other suitors including Manchester United, RB Leipzig, and Juventus all have main central strikers like Marcus Rashford, Timo Werner, and Cristiano Ronaldo/Gonzalo Higuain who would deny him much needed playing time.
BVB, on the other hand, have lacked a solid central striker since the departure of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with Paco Alcacer's fitness proving to be a concern, so regular playing time in front of 80,000 passionate Dortmund fans is a guarantee for Haaland.
The Norwegian international has not hidden his desire to one day play in the Premier League but his interests are still served in this regard, as the Signal Iduna Park has proven to be an excellent nurturing ground for youngsters like Mario Gotze, Ousmane Dembele, and Shinji Kagawa to move on to bigger clubs.
To state that Dortmund left no stone unturned in their charm offensive to sign Haaland is merely stating the obvious and Danish international Thoma Delany led his teammates in sending his fellow Nordic WhatsApp messages to convince him to join the club.
It was, however, not all smooth sailing for the club and they had to stretch themselves to the limit to sign the former Molde man, with reports indicating that Manchester United backed out due to some financial clauses involved in his transfer.
Whereas United were willing to offer more money in wages (Dortmund were close to matching their offer), they were not too comfortable with the percentages of his transfer fee going to his agent and father.
The German side also took the rare step of inserting a release clause in Haaland's contract which The Athletic indicates is higher than the £50m earlier reported but this release clause only becomes active towards the end of his four-and-half year contract and Dortmund hold bargaining rights in the event of an earlier transfer.