He might have been injured for half of Borussia Dortmund’s group stage matches, but Erling Haaland still managed to make his mark on this season’s Champions League with three goals in three games. And yet when Europe’s most prestigious club competition resumes next year, the Norwegian striker will have to watch from home.
Dortmund might have finished their Champions League Group C campaign with a thumping 5-0 win over Besiktas, in which Haaland bagged a brace, but their passage into the last 16 had already been blocked off before kick off. When continental competition starts up again after the winter, the Black and Yellows will take their place in the Europa League.
For a player of Haaland’s calibre and potential, this surely isn’t satisfactory. The 21-year-old is widely considered the game’s next great goalscorer. Some even predict that Haaland will forge an individual rivalry with Kylian Mbappe much like Cristiano Ronaldo did with Lionel Messi over a number of years.
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The Champions League is where the game’s best players showcase themselves and Haaland, who finished 11th in this year’s Ballon d’Or voting, is undoubtedly one of the game’s best players. If Borussia Dortmund can’t give him the platform to perform at such a level, the striker will need to find another club that can.
Haaland’s restlessness might be amplified by the fact he won’t be at the 2022 World Cup following Norway’s failure to qualify. When the great and good of the global game are in Qatar next winter, when the likes of Messi and Mbappe and all the rest are competing for footballing immortality, Haaland will once again be at home.
Of course, there’s nothing Haaland can do about his nationality. Born in Leeds, he could have played for England, but with 15 Norway caps to his name there’s no chance of him switching international allegiance in order to boost his chances of playing at major tournaments, but the failure to qualify for the World Cup could play on his mind and affect other decisions.
Increasingly, it feels as if Haaland is at a crossroads in his career. It may have arrived sooner than many predicted, but his development as one of the best centre forwards in world football has also accelerated beyond all expectations. Dortmund has been good for Haaland, but he might have already outgrown the Bundesliga club.
Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc has admitted there are “certain conditions” in Haaland’s contract that would allow him to leave the Westfalenstadion with a €75m release clause reportedly set to become active from next summer. At that price, the Norwegian would be a relative bargain.
Both Manchester clubs would almost certainly make their sales pitch to Haaland should he decide to move on from Dortmund. Chelsea could also be involved in the pursuit as questions over Romelu Lukaku’s suitability for Thomas Tuchel’s team persist. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Jurgen Klopp could use his Dortmund links to push for Haaland too.
Paris Saint-Germain could be in the market for a new attacker should Mbappe depart the Parc des Princes while Real Madrid might move for Haaland should the aforementioned target not pitch up in the Spanish capital. It’s even been suggested that Florentino Perez might target Haaland and Mbappe to kickstart a new ‘Galacticos’ era.
It was always likely that Borussia Dortmund would act as a stepping stone for Haaland whose potential first became apparent at Red Bull Salzburg, and the time for him to take the next stride in his career might already be here. And anyone who has watched the Norwegian play knows just how big the strides he takes are.
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