Everybody wants Erling Haaland.
Everybody needs Haaland, too, but nobody more so than Borussia Dortmund.
Last season, the striker finished as the Champions League’s top scorer.
This season, he missed three games through injury and Dortmund was knocked out in his absence with its group-stage exit confirmed by a 3-1 humbling against Sporting CP in Lisbon.
MORE: Where Haaland ranked in the Ballon d’Or voting
Haaland’s hip problem was expected to sideline him for the rest of the year, but the self-professed machine returned almost two months early to net his 50th Bundesliga goal in his 50th Bundesliga game against Wolfsburg on Matchday 13, becoming the youngest and fastest player to achieve that feat.
“He displayed a lot of willpower and worked really hard in rehab to be back,” Dortmund’s head of first-team football, Sebastian Kehl, told Kicker. “He gave himself a very good feeling and confidence with that performance.
“He makes us better in many areas of the game. To challenge Bayern at the highest level, we need him.
“In the past few days, we all sensed that he really wanted to help the team after the game against Sporting. You have to weigh that up carefully so as not to take too big a risk.
“But the sessions before the Wolfsburg game were so good that the player, coaches, doctors and physios made a joint decision that he could play. After the next week in training, he will be even further along physically.”
With Dortmund out of the Champions League, they now face the biggest game of their season in Matchday 14 on Dec. 4, and there was no way Haaland was missing such an important Klassiker.
Beat Bayern Munich at home, and Dortmund will go top of the Bundesliga. Lose, and they gift the Bavarians the opportunity to move another step closer to 10 league titles in a row.
MORE: Arsenal served a reminder about Gabriel Martinelli’s quality
Competing domestically is likely to be extremely important when it comes to convincing the likes of Haaland to stay at Dortmund, particularly with no Champions League football to look forward to for at least another nine months.
The 21-year-old has a reported release clause where he can leave the club next summer for $84 million, but BVB bosses are eager to keep their star player past 2022.
That said, they could be forgiven for cashing in on the Norway international in January if it became clear that a lack of Champions League football in the new year was going to be an issue for Haaland.
Which teams could pull off Haaland transfer?
There is a lot of interest in the ex-Salzburg star, but the transfer fee and additional expenses are likely to deter a lot of clubs, especially given that he will come much cheaper in six months’ time.
Real Madrid is Haaland’s preferred destination next summer, but any potential move to Los Blancos depends on what happens with Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe.
MORE: Who is budding Roma star Felix Afena-Gyan?
Manchester City are also in need of a striker, and Haaland is seen as the perfect signing after the Premier League champions ended their interest in Harry Kane. However, City have major concerns over the cost of the transfer, with agent Mino Raiola set to demand a large payout for any move, while Haaland would demand wages worthy of one of the world’s best players.
Reports in Spain indicate that Raiola would want $46 million for any transfer, while Haaland’s father, Alf-Inge, could also demand up to $23 million, meaning with the $84 million release clause, Haaland would cost at least $153 million before wages are even taken into consideration.
Longer-term, Raiola’s influence is also a worry, as any future contract negotiation would also require another lump sum for the agent, as well as a pay increase for the player.
Those financial demands could be a blessing in disguise for Dortmund, with most clubs set to be priced out of a move for their star man.
Kehl insists that they will try everything to keep Haaland, who is under contract at Signal Iduna Park until 2024. One of their plans is to double Haaland’s wages and make him the top earner at the club, removing the 2022 release clause in the process.
“Of course, we are trying to give him the feeling that Borussia Dortmund continues to be a top location for him and that he can still develop here,” Kehl told Bild. “Maybe we can still convince him. We will fight for him. We will try everything. The decision has not yet been made, but I would bet 100 euros [on him staying].”
Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke has been even more forceful when insisting Haaland is not for sale.
“It has not yet been decided whether he will really leave in the summer,” Watzke told Sport1.
MORE: Is it Dembele’s chance to shine at Barcelona under Xavi?
“We’ll just have a look. I heard someone say: ‘They have to sell Haaland because they are listed on the stock exchange.’ This is all bull! The decision whether someone is sold at our company is made by the management and only by the management.
“The ball lies in Erling’s court. I get on well with Mino Raiola because we can assess each other well. I know what makes him tick. It is not right to believe that Raiola is all about the money. He also has in mind what is best for Erling.”
Only Haaland will know what is best for Erling, but if Dortmund wants to convince him that staying should be his priority, the club needs to start by beating Bayern and proving that it’s able to compete at the top in Germany.