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Haaland's City transfer leaves Dortmund with only memories

June 13, 2022

Erling Haaland's transfer to Manchester City was confirmed on Monday. The Norwegian produced some spellbinding performances for BVB, who are now left with the impossible task of replacing one of Europe's finest players.

Erling Braut Haaland celebrates with the German Cup in his hands and his shirt pinned on his head.
Haaland won a German Cup with Dortmund in 2021Image: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

Erling Haaland's home debut was a memorable occasion; an entire stadium leaning in to catch a glimpse of a teenage superstar in the making.

Borussia Dortmund's opponents that Friday night two-and-a-half years ago were Cologne, and of course Haaland scored twice —  both in front of home fan stronghold the Südtribüne — the second from a seemingly impossible angle.

His maiden home game had followed a sensational debut hat-trick at Augsburg six days earlier, scored within 23 minutes of coming off the bench. He scored two more in his third game against Union Berlin, introducing himself to the Bundesliga with seven goals in less than two hours of football.

Haaland's best Dortmund performances

Haaland's unconventional build, sense of timing and relentless goalscoring prowess were simply too much for Bundesliga defenses to handle. His numbers in black and yellow were simply staggering: 86 goals in 89 appearances in all competitions across his three seasons in Germany.

But can he get even better? According to the man himself, there's no doubt about it: "I can improve everything," he told Sky Sports in January 2022. "I can improve my finishing a lot, I can become faster, I can become stronger."

It's a scary thought, given that when injuries haven't held him back — he missed 16 games this season through injury, including a niggling hip problem — he's been unplayable.

It's when the spotlight is shining brightest that this big-game player has made the greatest impact. His double against PSG in 2020 raised the roof at the Westfalenstadion as he announced himself on the biggest stage with a red-hot performance against a European heavyweight in the Champions League.

Haaland's home and away heroics against Sevilla sent Dortmund through to the quarterfinals in 2020-21 too. 

And in the 2021 German Cup final, he and Jadon Sancho netted two apiece against RB Leipzig, bringing major silverware to the club for the first time in four years. It was one of the last times Haaland and Sancho would play together, with the pair so effective in black and yellow but now on opposite sides of the blue and red divide in Manchester.

In a little over two years, Haaland has elevated himself from the 'next big thing' to the complete striker by the age of 21, proving his talent beyond any doubt. Unfortunately for Dortmund, he has outgrown them - and indeed the Bundesliga - at pace.

"The initial emotion for Dortmund fans is relief, given the way this became a transfer saga," Stefan Buczko, presenter of the Yellowwallpod podcast, told DW. "Had Haaland said half a year ago that he would go, they would have been fine with it. But it dragged out endlessly.

"Haaland's release clause meant that there was never an emotional edge. There was never really any football romance involved in this affair," Buczko added.

Haaland heads 'home'

What was long suspected was finally confirmed on Monday when Manchester City officially announced that they had signed the 21-year-old on a four-year deal, paying the €75m buyout clause in his Borussia Dortmund contract.

"I was born in England," said Haaland in a statement, referring to the fact that he was born in Leeds in 2000 while his father was playing for Leeds United, before himself moving to City for three seasons.

"I have been a City fan my whole life and I know a lot about the club," claimed Haaland junior. "In the end, [there were] two things. I feel at home here and I feel I can develop and get the best out of my game at City. I like the style [of play]. I like attacking football. I like the positive vibe we have when City play football. This is what I like a lot, so I think it's a good fit.''

"We have been monitoring Erling for several years now, so we are delighted to bring him here to Manchester City," said Txiki Begiristain, the club's director of football.

"He is a huge talent and has been one of the best strikers in Europe over the last few seasons. His goalscoring record is exceptional and his performances at Borussia Dortmund and in the Champions League, in particular, have proved he can succeed at the highest level. Erling has everything we want in a striker, and we are certain he will excel in this squad and this system."

Former England striker Gary Lineker called the signing of Haaland a "seminal moment for the Premier League," saying on Twitter: "The first time a young superstar, sought by all, has come to an English club over the Spanish giants."

Erling Haaland playing for Borussia Dortmund
Erling Haaland scored almost a goal a game in the BundesligaImage: Joosep Martinson/Getty Images

Haaland's future mapped out

Tragically, the man largely responsible for mapping out Haaland's career path is no longer around to see his work come to fruition.

Mino Raiola, Haaland's agent, carefully planned his client's rise from RB Salzburg to the big-time with cleverly-placed buyout clauses — and significant commissions — but recently died following a serious illness.

Now, without his agent to guide him, Haaland will have to adapt to a new system.

He will be playing under Pep Guardiola, who is famously averse to strikers, often preferring a more diminutive attacking midfielder — Phil Foden or Bernardo Silva, for example — to operate at his team's apex. It was for this reason that City's record goalscorer, Sergio Aguero, never quite fit the Guardiola blueprint.

Haaland is younger though, and a player who offers something every coach desires: a boat-load of goals. For City, he could just be the signing that makes them unstoppable. Dortmund, meanwhile, are left only with the memories and the challenge of another crucial rebuild. But replacing Haaland will surely be impossible.

Edited by: Matt Ford