Borussia Dortmund have some of the best young players in European football, but for how much longer? The next few weeks will be crucial for the retention of Erling Haaland, Jadon Sancho and Giovanni Reina, because failure to win the Champions League next season will have serious consequences for their careers.
Dortmund is fifth in the Bundesliga, four points behind Eintracht Frankfurt – who they play against on Saturday (live on ESPN+ at 9:30 a.m. ET) – and a win would further hurt their chances of qualifying. Dortmund also face Manchester City next week in the quarter-finals of the Champions League – a match that many have described as a pre-match for Haland’s next club. They are under pressure, having won just one of their last four games in all competitions.
In the summer, Dortmund managed to keep Sancho when Manchester United were interested by withholding a €120 million transfer fee and they used a similar trick by putting a €180 million price tag on Haaland’s contract, according to ESPN sources.
It was announced on Thursday that Haaland’s father, Alf-Inge Haaland, and his business manager Mino Raiola are in talks with Real Madrid and Barcelona over a possible transfer of the superstar.
The club will have to find money as it struggles financially with the KOVID-19 pandemic and expects to lose 75 million euros, however, Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke told Bild : No one has to worry about us. Whether or not we play in the Champions League or Europa League next season, the current season and next season are already fully funded. A return to the status quo before the pandemic would take four to five years. But compared to other clubs that have been hit harder by the coronavirus crisis, we are doing well.
But there are two truths in football: 1) Dortmund fire their best players, 2) then they leave. How likely is it that the next generation of stars will still be at the club next season?
Jan Darke says he understands why Dortmund are doing everything they can to keep Erling Haaland.
Even with Lionel Messi’s contract at Barcelona expiring this summer and Cristiano Ronaldo’s career at Juventus in doubt, Haaland’s long-term future is still a major talking point in world football.
Just over a year after signing a €20 million contract with FC Salzburg in January 2020, the Norwegian international has become a true centre-forward. Haaland’s extreme physicality, speed, and vicious left-handedness are coupled with an ever-improving positional game, an ability to make quick, clean turnovers in the end zone, and a finishing ability that sometimes borders on the ridiculous.
Is it likely that he will move this summer? Maybe, but it’s less about where it fits and more about who can afford it. Sources have told ESPN that with a €180m price tag, there will be few candidates, but he has a €75m transfer clause in 2022, which could cause a rush for his services.
Thor-Christian Carlsen is a Norwegian football scout and manager, former general manager and sporting director of AS Monaco. He will write regularly for ESPN on the business of football and the scouting process.
Haaland’s father, Alf-Inge Haaland, and his agent Mino Raiola held talks with Barcelona and Real Madrid on Thursday over a possible transfer for Haaland. The lure of a club is tempting to any player, and although the Spanish giants, with their limited resources, are no longer able to offer better salaries, they often find the means when they really want to attract a player.
In particular, Barcelona has begun negotiations. The squad, including Messi’s departure, would free up capital, though of course it wouldn’t be as attractive without him by his side, and he’s struggled to find a solid target so far (Zlatan Ibrahimovic, anyone?). Madrid would prefer PSG striker Kylian Mbappé as a long-term replacement for Karim Benzema, but could see Haaland as a better and cheaper option.
Haaland’s fundamental qualities and his style of play could make him more suited to the English Premier League than La Liga at this stage of his career. Born in Leeds to Alf Inge, a father who played around 200 games for Nottingham Forest, Leeds and Man City, the appeal of England is clear. And Manchester in particular.
– Teng: Why Haland could be the best in the world.
City need to fill a void this summer with Sergio Aguero leaving the club for free, and also have the financial ability to do a deal; United have a link with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Haaland can provide a reunion with their former coach from his time at Molde. Solsker’s use of space, with a more energetic and direct style of football, could also suit him.
Of course, the most exciting young striker in the world can join any club, and if Dortmund can’t secure a Champions League spot, they can pick him.
Who can Dortmund replace him with if he leaves? Patson Daka, 22, FC Salzburg is an excellent striker whose strength makes him a real challenge for defenders. Strong in one-on-one situations and able to create chances, the Zambian has been an excellent scorer for his club (27 goals in 31 games) and his country (4 goals in 2 games) this season. Salzburg?
Dortmund has a nice collection of young stars. Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images
After a quiet start to the season, Sancho’s contract at Dortmund has led to dissatisfaction. Has his motivation waned after his failed switch to Manchester United? Watzke even said he feared the winger had left the club without knowing it.
But six goals and six assists in his last ten Bundesliga games marked a turning point, when his power, energy and sudden, brilliant moves finally returned to the level of his mesmerising performances last season. Unfortunately, the Englishman suffered an ankle injury just as he was starting to regain his form and is likely to miss the Champions League match against City (the club that brought him to Dortmund for around €11 million in 2017). But now he’s showing again that he’s one of the best young players in the game.
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Is it likely that he will move this summer? Yes. Despite inconsistent form and injuries, Sancho stands out for his ability to play on both sides of the attack as well as in midfield. His versatility, speed, agility in tight spaces and excellent one-on-one dribbling – combined with the vision and geometric intelligence of an advanced playmaker – have attracted the interest of all major European clubs.
Although Man United have interesting options at youth level, such as Amad Diallo and Mason Greenwood, the same logic could be applied to contracting Sancho as they did with Haaland : If the opportunity arises to sign a young player of that quality, you take it and adjust tactically.
Paris Saint-Germain are also looking for reinforcements in attack and could be interested if they lose Mbappé or possibly Neymar in negotiations for a new contract. Sancho can wreak havoc like no other, so a transfer to anything other than the best clubs in the world is out of the question.
Who can Dortmund replace him with if he leaves? Noah Lang, 21, Ajax… The agile winger, a young Dutch international, can play at both ends and is as good a provider as he is. Currently on loan to Club Brugge.
Giovanni Reyna is the key to the future of the United States. Getty
Considering the American doesn’t turn 19 until November, it’s safe to say his development is ahead of schedule. Reina started 17 Bundesliga games this season, as well as the last four games (with two goals) for the USMNT.
– Plates: Raina is the next American superstar.
Reina is already close to being considered a starter. The next step now is to find consistency and perform consistently for 90 minutes. According to ESPN’s sources, he is certainly being watched by a number of clubs, including Barcelona and Real Madrid, but he may need to develop further before taking the plunge.
Is it likely that he will move this summer? No. The midfielder has no reason to leave the Westfalenstadion. Sancho’s possible departure could allow Reina to play an even more central role in new coach Marco Rose’s attacking plans.
Who can Dortmund replace him with if he leaves? Charles De Ketelaere, 20, Club Brugge – A versatile attacking player who can play in almost any role, from central midfielder to central striker. A very creative and intelligent player who is already a Belgian international.
Janusz Michalik thinks Jude Bellingham and Jamal Musiala are two players to keep an eye on next season.
If Bellingham’s talent was already no secret at Birmingham, then even Dortmund’s sporting hierarchy would be surprised at how quickly the midfielder has integrated into the Bundesliga. After playing his first England international in November – he came on at half-time against San Marino last week – Bellingham will be playing his ninth Champions League game against Man City.
A central midfielder so complete it’s hard to find an equal who was born after the turn of the century. He is excellent in ball possession, hard to steal, but also, thanks to his remarkable ball-carrying skills, very useful in the transition game.
Is it likely that he will move this summer? No. And while clubs certainly crave the potential World Cup winner in midfield (or even regret that he wasn’t first choice last summer), Bellingham’s main focus is to continue his development next season.
Who can Dortmund replace him with if he leaves? Isak Bergman Sigurdsson, 18, Norrköping – The Icelandic international is already close to becoming a complete central midfielder and is remarkably developed for his age. Has all the tools – physical, tactical and mental – to succeed in the Bundesliga after impressing in Sweden.
It is rare for a professional club at any level to be legally prevented from starting a player. But Dortmund had to wait until the teenager turned 16 before he could make his long-awaited Bundesliga debut – one day after his 16th birthday. Birthday last November.
Since then, Mukoko has also broken the record for youngest goal scorer in German air sports. The experienced striker, whose play is almost as impressive as his pace-setting and left-footed finishing, is perhaps the most talked about teenager in the game now that Haaland is in his 20s.
Is it likely that he will move this summer? No. Just as Sancho’s potential departure could aid Reina’s development, Mukoko could get more playing time if Haaland leaves this summer (although at 16 he’s still young enough to force Dortmund to bring in another, more experienced striker to bridge the gap between the two prodigies). Mukoko can be sure that there is no better place for his development than where he is now.
Who can Dortmund replace him with if he leaves? Alexander Buksa, 18, Wisla Krakow — Dortmund have already attracted some good talent in Poland, and Wisla’s left-back, who is not yet 17, is one of the most exciting strikers to come out of the country since Robert Lewandowski.
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