It may have been a quiet summer transfer window for Liverpool so far, but as everything falls into place it is hard to shake the impression there’s a bigger plan.
What if there’s been a plan all along? What if, away from the incessant social media demands for Liverpool to sign players that gamers want to use on FIFA 22, the Reds have quietly been working towards a longer-term goal? What if Jurgen Klopp and Michael Edwards are letting the tiddlers swim by because they think they can hook a whopper?
Firstly, because we’re talking transfers and it gets everyone a bit giddy in the comments section, a disclaimer. A bit like the one Sky Sports News put next to an asterisk on their Transfer Talk show the other day when showing Chelsea had spent £97m in the summer window before a deal for Romelu Lukaku had actually been done.
But hey, facts and truths are merely incidental when it comes to transfer stories and I speak as someone who spent two years of writing such pieces for the
Back then social media didn’t exist so we didn’t have to endure the plethora of anonymous accounts desperate for attention/followers that put any old rumour out to make it look like they know something, then gloss over the reality that they didn’t when a Diogo Jota turns up out of nowhere.
Anyhow, to drag this out in the style of Clubcall when transfer news was a 49p-a-minute phone call away, we would only run transfer stories in the ECHO after speaking to at least one (but ideally two) of four sources: Liverpool’s chief executive (or secretary as the role was called then), the manager, the player involved or the agent.
Often, these four sources would tell you different things depending on their particular agendas and you’d have to make a call on what seemed the most plausible story to run. Or you just didn’t run it.
The best football journalists still do that now and only tweet about transfers when they’ve got certainty from trustworthy contacts. The attention-seekers swing at every ball but keep their followers because most people only remember occasional home runs amidst all the strikeouts.
Which, in this instance, makes me the latter. Because I don’t know this for certain. It’s not factual information given to me by one of the four main sources who could verify such things. It’s purely a hunch based on a gut feeling, little snippets of information I’ve heard and a theory based on how FSG operate. But here goes…
I think Liverpool believe they can get Erling Braut Haaland from Borussia Dortmund next summer.
And, provided the Reds are in the Champions League and can meet Mino Raiola’s fees and wage demands for his client, I reckon Haaland will jump at the chance to come to Anfield.
Haaland’s reported €75m escape clause – or €90m, depending on who you believe – which can be activated in 2022, is key. For all the focus that some Reds put on what FSG don’t spend, they have consistently backed the manager on the big signings that he has wanted throughout the last half-decade.
Sadio Mane, £30m. Gini Wijnaldum, £25m. Mo Salah, £43m. Virgil van Dijk, £75m. Naby Keita, £52m. Fabinho, £43m. Alisson, £65m. Diogo Jota, £45m. Ibrahima Konate, £36m. Add homegrown Trent Alexander-Arnold and £10m bargain Andy Robertson to those nine signings and that’s a team capable of winning anything.
Tying many of them down to new contracts this summer is vastly underrated business and hasn’t come cheap.
‘But they won’t pay Haaland’s wage demands,’ I hear you say. That’s where what the player wants comes into it and the evidence suggests that Erling will put the right destination above pounds sterling.
Yorkshire’s finest footballer since James Milner was hardly a well-kept secret during his time at Red Bull Salzburg. The whole world and his wife/husband knew the Norwegian international was a goalscoring phenomenon with a release clause of less than £20m – a fifth of a Jack Grealish – in his contract.
Every club from Real Madrid and Chelsea to Bayern Munich and Popworld would have loved to have seen him walk through their doors, but Haaland went to Borussia Dortmund. For a reported £140,000 a week.
With all due respect to BVB, he could have earned double that elsewhere and played for a guaranteed title-winning team, but he went to the Westfalenstadion because it was the right club at the right time.
Not only was the 19-year-old a guaranteed starter there, BVB’s reputation for bringing the full potential out of brilliant young players – who also get to play in one of the best stadiums and atmospheres in world football – before selling them on appealed.
The 2022 release clause was clearly dated to fit when Haaland felt he would be ready to move again, the only question now is where to?
Hang on, don’t Man United have a Norwegian manager and a set of owners desperate to keep the revolting natives in check by throwing money at the team? Indeed they do, so what else would stop a lifelong Leeds United fan, whose dad had his career effectively ended by United legend Roy Keane while playing for Man City at Old Trafford, from going there?
Other than Raiola’s “I don’t give a f**k if I never do another player with Manchester United, I’m not in their hands” outburst in March, obviously.
I suspect the agent’s “as for Mr Guardiola, I’ve closed the book already a long time ago – everybody knows what I think of him personally,” quip also means it’d take a change of manager of the Etihad for Haaland to go there, hence the chase for Harry Kane.
Chelsea? They haven’t paid £97m for Lukaku to be sat on the bench in 2022/23.
With Barcelona due to appear on ‘Can’t Pay We’ll Take It Jose’, Real Madrid reportedly having the debt of a small country’s GDP and Paris Saint-Germain surprisingly replacing loanee Moise Kean with Lionel Messi, where else could Haaland possibly end up?
“He will land there,” said Salzburg sporting director Christoph Freund in reply to Lothar Matthaus when the German legend asked him about a move to Liverpool after Haaland had joined Borussia Dortmund in January 2020.
And only this week ex-BVB midfielder Michael Rummenigge – brother of Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz – told Germany’s Sport1: “I could well imagine Liverpool for Haaland.”
Which makes me think, what if? What if developing his potential at BVB then heading to Anfield in 2022 – when the Reds’ established No. 9 will be 31 with two 30-year-olds alongside him in attack – was Erling Braut Haaland’s plan and Liverpool have been in on it all along?
Chris McLoughlin is Senior Writer for Reach Sport, publishers of the Liverpool FC Matchday Programme and monthly magazine. You can subscribe to both or order the Liverpool vs. Burnley programme here.