Liverpool must enter Chelsea and Man Utd transfer battle for ‘perfect’ Erling Haaland

Erling Haaland’s ‘time in England will come’ says pundit

“He’s strong, aggressive, very good technically as well as being direct in the way he plays. I’ve not doubt he would be the perfect addition to the way that Liverpool play.” The words of Liverpool legend John Barnes on Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Braut Haaland.

Haaland has cemented himself as perhaps the most exciting young striker in Europe over the past 18 months, taking the step-up from Red Bull Salzburg to Dortmund in his massive stride.

In 35 games across all competitions for the Bundesliga giants, Haaland has as many goals and six assists, and his Bundesliga record reads 25 goals in 26 appearances. His Champions League scoring streak is even better, with 16 goals in 12 games having managed exactly eight in six games for both Salzburg and Dortmund.

Only Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski is a superior goalscorer in Germany’s top tier, with a ridiculous 21 goals in 15 games this term to add to 34 in 31 last season.

But the Pole is one of very few frontmen in world football who is superior to Haaland; a frightening statement considering the Norwegian is 12 years his junior and doesn’t turn 21 until July.

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Just as with Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe, Haaland has the world at his feet and the Leeds-born forward already has 100 career goals across spells with Molde, Salzburg and Dortmund.

He should be aiming to join the exclusive club of players to score 500 or more club career goals. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are two of only eight players ever to have managed the feat, discounting goals scored at international level, with both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lewandowski joining them when strikes for Sweden and Poland are included.

Put simply Haaland is a devastating talent with all of the attributes to be virtually unstoppable given his blend of pace, power and precision. Technically, physically and perhaps most crucially mentally, he is elite. It’s as if he was bred in a laboratory.

A player who will undoubtedly be regarded as one of the best of his generation, provided he maintains his current trajectory, after just 12 months at Dortmund, attention is already turning to his next move.

Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid are all linked, with Norway international Haaland available for just shy of £70million in the summer of 2022 when a release clause in his contract becomes active.

There are murmurs clubs could move 12 months early, but they would surely face having to pay at least double that fee and Dortmund may prefer to keep the player’s services an extra year, hoping he helps win them the league title or the Champions League, and lose him for a lower amount given they stand to make great sums from the likes of Jadon Sancho, Gio Reyna and Jude Bellingham in the coming years anyway.

Liverpool are another team to have been linked with Haaaland with Salzburg’s sporting director Christoph Freund saying back in November: “That’s where he will land [Liverpool]. He can play for any club in the world. With his mentality, his will, with his self-confidence, he can make a mark on European football in the next 10 years.”

Elsewhere Eurosport have said that figures within the club have indicated the Golden Boy winner could be their next major addition after the likes of Alisson and Virgil van Dijk in previous years.

Regardless of the validity of such reports, Haaland will obviously be on the Reds’ radar. But if he is not regarded as a genuine target, then he should be.

Physically and psychologically, Haaland would have no troubles mixing it in England and he is the kind of ruthless finisher on which title challenges year-in, year-out could be relied upon. No wonder United and Chelsea both want him.

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Stylistically, he would clearly represent a change to the approach employed at Liverpool currently, with Roberto Firmino acting as a false nine who drops deep and almost plays as more of a No 10 to drag central defenders with him and allow wide-men Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane the space in the final third to make runs inside the full-back.

Haaland has so much ability that he could probably play as a false nine too but he is best at getting in and around the box and scoring goals – all types of goals too. He could lead the line in a 4-3-3 or Firmino could continue to start as a No 10 in a 4-2-3-1.

He can play in plenty of systems and his arrival wouldn’t necessarily require a drastic tactical overhaul. He is not the immobile frontman that the likes of Rickie Lambert and Christian Benteke have been before him at Liverpool, neither of whom succeeded despite having some moments.

And in addition it is also clear that Liverpool are going to have to evolve as a team in the coming years, particularly with Firmino turning 30 in October and Mane and Salah turning 29 in April and June respectively.

Their front three has only got several seasons left of playing at a world-class level together, and they have shown periods of collective indifferent form already this term – though that might be a natural result of such a hectic fixture schedule.

A massive task awaits Klopp, arguably one as tough as turning Liverpool into a title-winning team, and that is to create a second great team. Not every manager is capable of it, even though Sir Alex Ferguson did so four times with Manchester United.

Haaland would be the perfect building block to create a new attacking force around, particularly if you add Diogo Jota, only 24 years old, on one side of him.

Even better if Liverpool were able to wait until 2022 and activate his £68m release clause, or pay a premium on top to beat their many rivals to his signature as they did with Naby Keita and RB Leipzig three years ago. After all, the relationship between the clubs is good thanks to Klopp’s ties with the Germans.

Obviously it would not be easy to sign Haaland and Liverpool would have to convince the player that Anfield is the absolute best destination for him. It is obviously a fine destination thanks to Klopp’s work in recent years and the argument he should pick them is easier to make with the Reds’ current team, which has won major titles and is still capable of winning more of them.

But equally the Scandinavian might feel his minutes would not be guaranteed straight away with Firmino having been the go-to starting striker in recent seasons.

Whereas at Chelsea, Olivier Giroud is soon to depart and Tammy Abraham’s contract is up in 2023. At Real Madrid, Karim Benzema recently turned 33. At United, Edinson Cavani is a veteran and all of Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial can play out wide.

Haaland may see it as more likely he will be the talisman of the team at any of those three clubs, or at a team like Barcelona where Lionel Messi will either leave this year or see out two or three more seasons before returning to his homeland of Argentina to retire with Newell’s Old Boys.

To sign Haaland Liverpool would also have to deal with Mino Raiola, with whom they don’t have many recent dealings – Mario Balotelli aside – and who has angered the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea in recent years. There are plenty of complexities to any deal.

But for a generational talent like Haaland, Liverpool really ought to consider breaking the mould and at least making a concerted pursuit. With his absurd goalscoring record and his overall profile, it’s hard to see how he wouldn’t be an overwhelming success and a player to usher in yet more success under Klopp.

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