FEATURE | Why Borussia Dortmund is the perfect match for Erling Braut Haaland

In the last few months, the growing excitement around Erling Braut Haaland has seen his name feature in headlines across the globe. The 19-year-old Norwegian striker, currently plying his trade at Red Bull Salzburg, has been tearing up both the Austrian Bundesliga and the Champions League, which has given rise to speculation about the young striker’s future, and rightly so. Interest has been prevalent from the Premier League and beyond, but most recently, there have been several sources linking the player with a move to Borussia Dortmund. For Dortmund fans, this is a mouthwatering prospect.

Throughout the 2019/20 Bundesliga season, it has been clear that Dortmund have missed an out and out striker as the focal point of their attacks. This was a problem seemingly solved by the permanent signing of Paco Alcácer, who, when fit, has been a rampant success with the Ruhr side. The key to this, however, is the phrase “when fit”. Since joining the club, Alcacer has suffered from a plethora of injuries, which have made him unavailable for long stretches of this season. This has seen Dortmund’s other attacking players rotate up front, but not to the same effect. A move for Haaland would be an ambitious one for the club, considering the interest the player has garnered, but because of a reported release clause, this signing is within reach for Dortmund to pull off. In many ways, it would be a move that would be mutually beneficial for club and player alike. Let’s look at why a move to Dortmund would suit both Haaland and the club.

Haaland is likely to prove a success at Dortmund since he would provide much needed depth in a position that the club have struggled to fill for many a year now. With the signing of Paco Alcácer on a permanent deal this past summer, Dortmund seemed sure that the Spaniard and Mario Götze would be enough to shore up the position. Alcácer’s heroics last year seemed to convince the board, and with good reason. Dortmund’s number 9 scored a total of 18 goals last season in the Bundesliga and set a record for being the Bundesliga’s most clinical striker, scoring a goal every 61 minutes for the club. It was a renaissance of a season for Alcácer, especially considering all the time he spent on Barcelona’s bench. For his part, Götze played the role of center forward well in the Spaniard’s absence, whenever he picked up a knock.

Despite Götze’s valiant efforts to cover for Alcácer, many believed that Dortmund needed another dimension to their attacking game, something neither Alcácer nor Götze brought to the table. Dortmund however opted to remain content with their chosen duo, and in some ways, fans understand it. The team spent an immense sum of money to bring in some of the Bundesliga’s biggest attacking talents in the form of Julian Brandt and Thorgan Hazard, as well as Mats Hummels and Nico Schulz to shore up the defense. The logic the club probably went with was that if they improve the defense and add some creative attacking quality, this should surely provide enough chances for the likes of Alcácer and Dortmund’s other established attackers to finish enough chances for Dortmund to compensate for the goals a second striker might bring in. Unfortunately, they were wrong.

Throughout this season alone, Alcácer has spent approximately 40 days on the sidelines due to a recurring Achilles irritation, as well as a knee injury. Mario Götze, on the other hand, has seemed to fall out of favour with head coach Lucien Favre, with most of those minutes coming in cameo performances off the bench. This has left Dortmund painfully short up top, with the likes of Marco Reus and Julian Brandt, among others, taking turns leading the line.

Haaland’s addition to the squad would be a bold move for Dortmund, and a statement of intent, but first and foremost it would rectify the error made over the summer of not actually dipping into the market to buy a player of his caliber and playstyle. In 14 games for current club RB Salzburg, Haaland has scored an impressive 16 goals and assisted his teammates 6 times. At first, one might say that these are stats taken from a league generally considered weaker than the top five leagues in the world currently. To underline his ability, Haaland has also provided immense performances in the Champions League scoring 8 times and assisting once. Haaland’s record of 8 goals is only bettered by Robert Lewandowski, and we all know just how good Dortmund’s former front man is. Haaland has registered goals against the likes of Liverpool and Napoli, further underlining his ability to compete at the top level.

It isn’t just Haaland’s finishing ability and goal tally that should be of interest to Dortmund. Whilst Die Schwarzgelben have a clinical finisher in Paco Alcácer, in Haaland, Dortmund would be getting a tall, strong forward that could be a goal threat from open play and set pieces, something they have perhaps missed since the Lewandowski departed the club. His height and power would add a much-needed dimension to Dortmund’s game.

Why Dortmund is the perfect match for Haaland

In recent months, it would seem that half the footballing world has taken note of Haaland’s prowess in the striker position. Dortmund have shown clear interest in Haaland, with the player and his agent, the infamous Mino Raiola both spotted in Dortmund earlier this month, which was later confirmed by Salzburg’s Sporting Director, Christoph Freund. In that same breath however, he confirmed that the player had also flown to Leipzig to host talks with none other the team very much not related to Salzburg, RB Leipzig. Julian Nagelsmann’s comments about their meeting were positive, and the thought of Haaland joining the club will certainly strike fear into the hearts of the teams competing for the Bundesliga title this season.

Beyond the two German powerhouses, the likes of Manchester United and Juventus have also shown interest in the player, with United’s head coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer allegedly traveling to Norway to meet with the teenage sensation to talk about a potential transfer. This has since fueled a frenzy that has led to fans following the players every move, be it the shirts he signs to the chartered flights he may (or may not) be taking. All in all, the competition is stiff for Salzburg’s wonderkid, and his performances make this very understandable.

With competition from the likes of Manchester United, Juventus and Leipzig, Dortmund Sporting Director Michael Zorc seems to have one hell of a transfer battle on his hands. The question is, why would Haaland possibly choose to move to Dortmund? The answers to this question are rather simple, actually.

The first benefit we can look at for Haaland moving to Dortmund is playing time. Of the four clubs mentioned above, no other club can guarantee Haaland more time on the pitch. At United, Haaland would be fighting for a place in the team ahead of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, and the up and coming Mason Greenwood. At Juventus, Haaland would be competing for a place on the field with Mario Mandžukić, Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, and of course, Cristiano Ronaldo. At Leipzig, Haaland would be competing with Yousef Poulsen and Timo Werner predominantly.

Taking a look at the list of names, it isn’t to say Haaland wouldn’t be able to push past a fair amount of them in the pecking order; he is a player certainly capable of doing just that. The fact of the matter is that each of the players mentioned still represent a road-block to the first team for a player that, in his mind, should be looking for as much time on the pitch as possible. In this scenario at Dortmund, Haaland would only have to compete for a place with the injury prone Alcácer, especially considering it is looking ever more likely that Mario Götze will not remain a Dortmund player for much longer. Götze has yet to sign a contract extension with the club, and there have been rumors that if Lucien Favre remains head coach, this is likely to be one of the main factors that will push Götze to look for pastures new.

Of course, it can also be said that more competition tends to bring the best out of players and push them harder, and this is in many cases a valid point. One doesn’t have to look farther than Dortmund’s own Roman Bürki to see this is true. In his first couple years in Dortmund, Bürki struggled to put in the types of performances required of a keeper at Dortmund’s level. The signing of Marwin Hitz from Augsburg has seemingly helped steady the ship for Bürki, providing him with a serious competitor for the number one spot. Since Hitz’s signing two summers ago, Bürki has gone on to put in the best performances of his career, often being the one thing between Dortmund and total capitulation when the defense goes into the lull it has become known for.

The thing is, at Dortmund, I don’t believe that Haaland would need 4 or 5 players to compete with so that he could shine at his very best. He’s done it at Salzburg with relatively no competition at all, and a fit Paco Alcacer will surely give Haaland enough of a run for his money.

This brings us to another crucial point to consider: What happens to Paco Alcacer if Haaland signs? At first glance, it would seem that this would signal the Spaniard’s departure from the club, but I would beg to differ. In fact, it could be a great way to compliment Paco in the team. For one, it would mean that Alcacer would be able to share striking duties with a partner, which could in turn positively affect his health. Just as with Reus, Paco is injury prone and still seems to need his minutes managed in order to stay healthy. The two players would compete with each other, bringing the best out of each other, and still both have ample time on the pitch.

It would be remiss not to mention that on top of all of these benefits, Dortmund of course are well known for their ability to make young talents shine, and Haaland would certainly be no different. The Norway international would join the likes of Jadon Sancho, Christian Pulisic and a list of other players that owe much of their development to the Dortmund setup.

The club would certainly not expect him to stay forever, but for now, the transfer would be mutually beneficial for both parties, and despite intense competition, it is my hope that Dortmund push hard to sign the young striker. It would be a positive glimmer of hope for the fans who have seen the team struggle in 2019. It would be a sign of intent, and brighter things to come as the club moves into the new decade.

By Brian Szlenk.

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