Manchester United have delayed their need for a striker by stumbling onto Edinson Cavani last autumn and then persuading the veteran to stay for a second season. But landing a long-term number nine next summer is still important and Erling Haaland remains the most obvious fit.
Even at 21, Haaland is already one of the best goalscorers in the world. His record over the last two years has been outstanding for a player so young – 57 in 59 appearances for Borussia Dortmund and a further 27 in 29 for Red Bull Salzburg since the summer of 2019 alone.
He is putting up those numbers now and has the potential to get even better in the years to come. That makes a €75m (£64m) release clause in his Dortmund contract that comes into play next summer a bit of a bargain considering the return the buying club will get on their investment.
Any club wanting to sign Haaland sooner will have to pay through the roof for him. In early July, 90min revealed Chelsea’s preparedness to offer up to £150m for the Norwegian prodigy, but no firm indication of what Dortmund would be willing to accept and the possibility of signing alternatives for less of a financial outlay has so far seen that interest not progress.
Indeed, Chelsea’s attention has now turned more towards re-signing Romelu Lukaku and an opening offer worth £85m plus Marcos Alonso has gone in that has been rejected by Inter.
If Chelsea are to sign Lukaku it would quench their thirst for a striker ahead of next summer. Similarly, if Manchester City are successful in their pursuit of Harry Kane, they too will also surely drop out of the Haaland race. Real Madrid are gunning for Kylian Mbappe, while there is not a chance that Barcelona could put together a package in current financial circumstances.
Even Juventus might struggle to compete financially as long as Cristiano Ronaldo remains on the books, leaving United’s primary competition Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain.
United have already been close to signing Haaland in the past, losing out to Dortmund in January 2020. He has a strong pre-existing relationship with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the likelihood of more reliable playing prospects at Dortmund at that stage of his career was among the decisive factors.
United were also not keen to accept certain conditions, including the release clause which will now see Haaland move on again for a fee that could be considered relatively cheap in the circumstances. The player has progressed rapidly even since then so the talks would now all be very different.
The Old Trafford club now have a year in which they must prove to Haaland that they are the right team for him. The improvement over the last 18 months is there to see, with the young squad that Solskjaer and the recruitment department have assembled on the cusp of mounting serious challenges for major trophies – Haaland himself could well end up the final piece of the jigsaw.
The arrival of Raphael Varane shows that United are still a big lure for the very best, despite a relative lack of success in recent years, while Haaland will be able to get first-hand feedback about United’s ongoing development from friend and former Dortmund teammate Jadon Sancho.
The experiences of Sancho could very well influence how Haaland sees United and the opportunity to link up with a player he already built a strong on-field relationship with could be a factor.
The likes of Bayern and PSG have star-studded attacking line ups and Haaland could have the prestige of replacing Robert Lewandowski or the aforementioned Mbappe respectively. But the prospect of playing with Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba – if he commits, Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood and others is not to be sniffed at. It was certainly enough to convince Sancho.
If United at least get close to winning the Premier League title this season and make the kind of statement in the Champions League that has been lacking since 2011, there would be a compelling argument for Haaland to choose Old Trafford next summer over anywhere else.