Soccer Football – Bundesliga – Borussia Dortmund v Arminia Bielefeld – Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund, Germany – February 27, 2021 Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Braut Haaland [Pool via REUTERS/Ina Fassbender]
Except for a mix-up over the different time zones between Norway and England Europe’s much sought-after striker Erling Braut Haaland would now be a Manchester United player.
In an incredible twist of fate, the then-teenage striker ended up signing for Red Bull Salzburg leaving newly appointed Old Trafford boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer frustrated and facing an expensive game of catch-up.
Everton also missed out on the chance of snapping up a young Haaland following a strong recommendation from their Scandinavian scout, former Millwall keeper Bryan King.
Now having moved on to Borussia Dortmund, the 20-year-old 6ft 4in hitman has a £75million release clause which becomes active in the summer of 2022.
Any interest this summer will be met for a demand of £150million – a far cry from the fees talked about originally with Manchester United and Everton.
King was first alerted to the precocious talents of the son of former Leeds United and Manchester City midfielder Alf-Inge Haaland when he scored a goal from the half-way line.
King, who still lives in Norway, said: “The first game I saw him play was for Norway Under-15s against Sweden Under-15s. At the start of the game, the Swedish goalkeeper and center half were on the edge of the 18-year box.
Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Braut Haaland in action with Bayern Munich’s Jerome Boateng [Pool via REUTERS/Leon Kuegeler]
“Norway kicked off and the ball was passed to Erling who after looking up sent the ball flying into the net from the half-way line.
“I was surprised that no English club went in for him even at that young age. He looked an old English type centre-forward, very powerful.
“It didn’t matter who he was playing against – if it was a 16-year-old or a 20-year-old. He would just knock them out of the way.”
It was Molde managed by Solskjaer who took Haaland from his hometown club Bryne and helped nurture the precocious skills.
After being installed as Manchester United manager Solskjaer wanted to bring Haaland to Old Trafford while to King’s dismay after initially discussing a fee with Molde and speaking to the player Everton went cold on the deal.
But a misunderstanding cost United the chance of landing the teenager.
It had been arranged for a United representative to ring Haaland’s agent Jim Solbakken at 9 am and finalise a deal worth £3million plus add ons. Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Braut Haaland in action [Pool via REUTERS/Ina Fassbender]
Molde believed it would be 9 am Norwegian time but when the call came through it was then 10 am in Scandinavia who were an hour ahead in the time zones.
By then the club had agreed on a deal with Red Bull Salzburg who had rung at the agreed time
“It was just simply a lack of communication – a freak situation with no one to blame,” said King.
“Obviously looking back Everton will also be disappointed now.”
Super agent Mino Raiola is now guiding Haaland’s financial affairs as United, Manchester City, Chelsea and a number of continental giants try to move in on the free-scoring forward.
“It’s going to cost anyone around £100million to buy him now,” added King, happily retired.
“Over the last three years, he has made tremendous strides. His finishing power is a lot like Harry Kane.
“When he gets it around the box Harry makes sure he rifles into the net. Erling is the same. He is an old-fashioned center-forward who loves to score goals.”