Red Bull Salzburg sporting director Christoph Freund has been a busy man this year.
The club leads the Austrian Bundesliga table by two points, and they gave the likes of Liverpool and Napoli a true run for their money in Champions League play. A mix of youthful exuberance, emerging talent, and managerial ability has thrust them into the limelight on multiple fronts.
A major crux of their success is the surplus of talent in the squad suddenly tracked by the biggest clubs in Europe. Most notably, midfielder Takumi Minamino will likely be sold to Liverpool in January, while striker Erling Braut Haaland is rumored to be a hot commodity as the months continue and his goal count rises.
Freund spoke to The Independent about how both players have vastly different situations, yet both are critical to the club’s continued success as a perennial power in a smaller league.
“Haaland is a different case,” Freund said. “He’s still very young, this is only his first year with Salzburg. He’s done exceptional in the last months and I hope he spends many more months with us, at least until the summer. I think it’s very important for him to play one full season as an important player in a professional team. His situation is different to Takumi’s, who has been here five years in what has been a very special story. Takumi is ready to make the next step in January.”
Freund was adamant that selling players to bigger clubs is a massive key to their ability to attract young talent in the future, a critical component of sustained success. One of the ways they prove this to young players is with low release clauses, as evident by Minamino’s paltry $10 million trigger, and Haaland reportedly has a comparatively low figure as well.
“It’s important to allow players to make the step after Salzburg,” said Freund. “Our only chance is to get players at a young age, between 17-20 and we help them by letting them play professional football already, which is very important for development. This helps them be ready for the rest of their careers. If we speak with young players, their agents and their parents, we can show them a lot of players come here, not with big names, but now they’re playing in big leagues and this is very important for us as a club.”
Freund’s words are a clear indication that the club wishes to keep Haaland through the winter transfer window and wait to finalize any deal until the coming summer. Properly developing talent is vital to the club, as they sell past success stories to future talent, and rushing Haaland’s progress could ultimately dampen one of their potential hallmark cases.
The Independent article goes on to report that once Haaland does eventually find a new home, the 19-year-old is being pulled in a number of different directions, and his future is still very unclear. His father, former Man City and Leeds United midfielder Alf-Inge Haaland, is reportedly looking for Erling to take another step before playing under the bright lights in England, with RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund considered major contenders. However, a relationship with former Molde manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is hard to ignore, and the report indicates the Manchester United boss made a pitch to Ed Woodward to secure Haaland’s signature this winter or coming summer.
Still, the feeling is that Haaland’s supporting cast is pushing him towards the Bundesliga, and clubs are responding in kind. RB Leipzig has been particularly open about its recruitment of Haaland, with both sporting director Markus Krosche and manager Julian Nagelsmann admitting they have spoken with the young Norweigan.
“We have shown what we can offer him and which part he could play in our team. It’s now up to him,” Krosche said to German publication Kicker yesterday, while Nagelsmann told reporters, “I tried to explain to him in good English what my idea of football is. I think it went quite well.”