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Erling Haaland in the PL – A ‘Perfect’ Fit?

Twenty-year old striker Erling Braut Haaland has rocked the Bundesliga ever since joining Borussia Dortmund back in January, netting almost a goal per game with the ‘Schwarzgelben’. A debut hat-trick against Augsburg still stands as his greatest performance to date, but other memorable ones have followed.

The young striker has also gained a reputation for being a matchwinner, with four of his last six goals for Dortmund proving decisive, and contributing much to his current 90% win-rate across goalscoring games with the club.

Haaland’s achievements have made him a prime candidate to join big-spending Real Madrid, who recently won their 34th league title. Even so, there are some people who believe he is better-suited to the Premier League. In turn, the two Manchester clubs – alongside new champions Liverpool – are seen as prime candidates to wrest him away from Dortmund if Real Madrid can’t.

PL TOP SIX
City, United and Liverpool have consistently finished inside the top six of the Premier League over the past four seasons, including 2019/20.

Straight to the top?

Though they are not currently favourites to be Haaland’s next club, new champions Liverpool have an obvious edge, especially as Premier League betting odds for 2020/21 will certainly back the Reds to retain the title. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s existing connection to Dortmund, and his unconditional love for a swift counter-attacking system, provides further reason to see Anfield as Haaland’s next port of call.

Naturally, displacing Liverpool’s first-choice striker Roberto Firmino in the starting XI would be a mountainous challenge. Even if Haaland did manage this regularly, any slip in results – however small or unlikely – could see him immediately ostracised by the Anfield faithful. However, the presence of a well-built number nine such as Haaland gives the Reds a wider range of options, especially when faced with a particularly robust defence.

Breaking into the starting XI of Manchester City, meanwhile, would prove equally difficult, with Sergio Aguero aging but still as lethal as ever. On the face of it, Haaland looks like the perfect long-term replacement for the Premier League’s highest-scoring foreign player, but Gabriel Jesus is also much more than just an understudy to Aguero in a one-striker 4-3-3 system.

No matter how frequently sidelined, Jesus has always provided a seamless transition between personnel from the substitutes’ bench. With this in mind, Haaland would need precious time to adapt, but City do not have time as they once did, with Liverpool and Chelsea unlikely to give an inch next season.

Stadium
Real Madrid’s glamorous Santiago Bernabeu stadium may be denied the opportunity to see Erling Haaland step out for the Galacticos.

Room for improvement at United gives them an edge

On current evidence, Haaland’s aerial presence would prove most useful at Manchester United, even though securing fellow Dortmund starlet Jadon Sancho’s signature appears set to dominate the club’s summer agenda.

If United manager and fellow Norwegian Ole Gunnar Solskjaer felt compelled to experiment, Haaland could sit just off main striker Marcus Rashford, and win aerial duels or flick-ons. This would increase the regularity with which United create chances, and provide a different route to goal if players such as Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes find themselves unable to play through the middle.

Even Haaland’s hypothetical partnering of Rashford, in a system with two strikers, has potential. From a sentimental perspective if nothing else, it would recreate the ever-coveted combination of strength and speed that once saw United dominate English football in the not so distant past.

Why the Premier League?

Dortmund’s emphasis on the fast countering and high pressing associated with the Premier League’s top-six makes a move to England a highly logical one, and appears to offer a smoother transition. By extension, many of those who watch Haaland in action believe that he would have little time for Real Madrid’s more ‘patient’ approach to build up play. Those same people also assert that his 1.94m-tall frame is a better fit for the rigours of English football.

On an emotive level, there is a family legacy that is there to be continued, with Haaland’s own father (Alf Inge Haaland) spending the prime of his career in the Premier League. The motif of ‘unfinished business’ – contextualised by his father’s failed title challenges at Nottingham Forest (1994/95) and Leeds (1999/00) – could push Haaland yet further in the direction of England’s top flight.