Erling Haaland officially joined Borussia Dortmund on January 1. (Photo by David … [+]
The year 2019 ended for Borussia Dortmund with two significant transfer deals. First, Borussia Dortmund announced the transfer of Red Bull Salzburg striker Erling Haaland on January 29, then on January 31, Julian Weigl was sold for €20 million (£18 million) to Lisbon-based side Benfica.
Both deals were somewhat surprising. But it was the move for Erling Haaland that truly captured the imagination of the world press.
The Norwegian forward had been heavily linked with Manchester United, Juventus and Borussia Dortmund’s league competitor RasenBallsport Leipzig. Leipzig, in particular, has been considered a big favorite to sign the 19-year-old striker due to the club’s close connection with the Red Bull sponsored club in Salzburg.
“Despite receiving numerous offers from some of the biggest clubs in Europe, Erling Haaland has decided that the best option for his career is to come and join our project here at BVB,” Dortmund’s CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke said in an official club statement. “Our persistence has paid off.’
Sporting director Michael Zorc was equally happy about pulling off the transfer. “We can all look forward to having an ambitious, athletic and physically imposing center-forward here at the club,” Zorc said. “Haaland boasts a real eye for goal and impressive speed, and we are confident that we can develop him even further here in Dortmund. At just 19 years of age, he is at the very start of what promises to be an incredible career.”
The race to sign Erling Haaland was especially intriguing as the striker had a €20 million exit-clause that meant that clubs did not have to negotiate directly with Salzburg. Instead, it was all about convincing Haaland and his entourage consisting of his father, former Premier League Alf-Inge Haaland, and super-agent Mino Raiola, who is one of the five most influential agents on the planet.
Dortmund’s relationship to Raiola, in particular, might have been decisive. The club has previously worked with the agent when Henrikh Mkhitaryan played at the club. The Armenian ultimately forced his way out of Dortmund, the agent reportedly underlining his client’s intent of wanting a move to Manchester United by throwing a chair across the room.
Erling Haaland’s agent Mino Raiola (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
Nonetheless, Dortmund and Raiola kept a professional relationship. The same cannot be said about United and Raiola where his client Paul Pogba tried to force a move away from the club.
The same Manchester United that claimed the day of the Haaland to Dortmund transfer that they were unwilling to meet Raiola’s demands to make a move to the Premier League happening. Several reports in the English media, according to Raiola spread by United, claimed that the Red Devils were unwilling to meet demands of an exit clause and shares of future transfer fees.
Those reports were quickly slammed by Raiola the day after. Indeed, Watzke has previously gone on record that exit-clauses will no longer be permitted at Borussia Dortmund—not that Haaland will need a clause as a Raiola client anyhow.
In truth, Haaland was always going to move to the Bundesliga first, with RB Leipzig and Dortmund in the driver’s seat. Ultimately, Dortmund won the race because they could guarantee playing time and because they felt more comfortable to meet Raiola’s financial demands.
“Our club has certain crash barriers and borders,” RB Leipzig’s CEO Oliver Mintzlaff said on December 22 in the television show Doppelpass. “The transfer fee might have been acceptable, but the overall package consists not just of the transfer fee.”
Bundesliga leaders RB Leipzig would have loved to include Haaland in their squad. But in Timo Werner, who has scored 18 goals in 17 games in the Hinrunde, Patrik Schick and Yussuf Poulsen, Leipzig has plenty of depth in the attacking position. As a result, the club saw no need to stem a package that, in its entirety—transfer fee, salary until 2024, and agent fees—is worth €100 million (£90 million).
Dortmund, on the other hand, were not just willing, but almost desperate to make the deal for the Norwegian super talent. The club started with the ambitious goal to challenge for the title this season. But despite spending €127.5 million (£115 million) on new players last summer, the club has struggled under head coach Lucien Favre this season and is currently seven points behind Leipzig.
CEO Watzke has admitted that one of the biggest mistakes was failing to sign a striker last summer. That hole has now been filled by signing Erling Haaland. It is a magnificent deal for Borussia Dortmund and the Bundesliga.
For the Black and Yellows, however, it is a deal that is both commitment and obligation. A few years ago, Haaland to the Bundesliga was the sort of transfer only Bayern could have pulled off. It highlights that Dortmund’s financial abilities have increased significantly, but it also increases the pressure on the Black and Yellows and its staff, to finally win something.
Manuel Veth is the editor-in-chief of the Futbolgrad Network and the Area Manager USA at Transfermarkt. He has also been published in the Guardian, Newsweek, Howler, Pro Soccer USA, and several other outlets. Follow him on Twitter: @ManuelVeth