Erling Haaland could soon be making a career-defining decision in his life. It may not change his life completely but could determine which direction his career heads into. And the possibilities will be endless for the 19-year-old.
His former Molde boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s club Manchester United have drawn strong links. And they are said to be one of the favourites to sign the Norwegian. While that could be an exciting move, the recent links with RB Leipzig make perfect sense.
Even though moving to United will not be a bad thing at all, joining Leipzig will be the best decision Haaland will make. Not because of Salzburg and Leipzig’s obvious links with Red Bull, but because of how he will have the perfect atmosphere to grow.
At Old Trafford, the situation is toxic. The club’s failures to get back to the top of the English football pyramid has left fans frustrated. The lack of a footballing structure has meant that the club has had four different managers in six years after Sir Alex Ferguson retired.
This has led to immense instability at a club which has vocal fans. Romelu Lukaku, despite having scored 42 goals in all competitions in two seasons, got a huge amount of criticism and left. Marcus Rashford has contributed to 83 goals at the age of 22, but the Englishman still gets a lot of stick from the Old Trafford faithful.
The demand for absolute perfection in a goalscorer has made fans question the most minute of problems in players. As the club continues to disappoint on the pitch, that might only increase. The lack of footballing brains on the board is a reason for that.
Leipzig, on the other hand, have become synonymous with playing a very good brand of football, impressive recruitment and constant push towards Bundesliga success. 11 of the players that they have signed since 2015 have come from Red Bull backed clubs- Salzburg or New York.
Under new manager Julian Nagelsmann, the club has retained the idea of playing good football. The 32-year-old German has settled onto playing a 4-4-2 or a 3-4-1-2 shape that relies on building from the back. There is an emphasis on high-pressing and playing an attacking brand of football. That is exactly what the club has become known for today.
There is a plan and identity, unlike United. The approach to the game is similar to what Jesse Marsch has done at Salzburg. The American, who was a number two at Leipzig under Ralph Hasenhuttl, has played variations of the 4-4-2 in Austria. He has often played Hasenhuttl’s very own 4-2-2-2 shape too.
The similarities are stark and clear. What makes things even more interesting is the situation of Timo Werner at the Red Bull Arena.
The young German did sign a new deal at the club this past summer. But it has a release clause of €30 million- something that is sure to attract many clubs. United themselves have been linked with the striker over the last few weeks.
If Werner does leave in the summer, a space for a striker will open up alongside the mercurial Yussuf Poulsen. The similarities in systems at Salzburg and Leipzig will make it easy for Haaland to adapt in Leipzig.
Having said all that, it is crucial to know that the pressure of moving to United and performing from day one is immense. At Leipzig, players can improve and develop under-the-radar like Werner himself has.
It isn’t to say that heading to another club or United will hurt Haaland. But making the right decisions at a young age can alter his life. Through Leipzig, the step-up to the huge platform will be gradual and step-by-step.