There is little doubt that Erling Haaland is one of the hottest properties in world football at the moment. The Borussia Dortmund striker’s prolific scoring has attracted interest from Barcelona, Real Madrid, Serie A and the Premier League with a price tag of anything up to €150m being suggested as the necessary outlay to persuade the Bundesliga side to do business. Haaland looks increasingly likely to remain at Dortmund for the 2021-22 season but when he does move it will be for one of the highest fees in the history of the game. Barcelona have more or less removed themselves from the race due to the club’s financial restrictions and after landing Sergio Agüero on a free from Manchester City, but Ronald Koeman could have had the Norway striker under his tutelage five years ago when he was in charge at Everton.
The chance to steal a march on the young Haaland came through the uncanny eye of scout Steve Walsh. One of the most respected spotters of talent in the business, Walsh provided Leicester City with N’Golo Kanté, signed from Caen for €6m, Riyad Mahrez, snapped up for just €600,000 from Le Havre, and most famously Jamie Vardy, for a reported fee of around €1.2m from Fleetwood Town.
Walsh’s successes were enough to persuade Everton to make him their chief scout in 2016, at the same time as Ronald Koeman arrived on Merseyside to take over at the Premier League club. When he strolled into Goodison Park, the Dutchman had a potential signing on his desk: a wiry 16-year-old Norwegian striker.
Everton and Koeman turned down 16-year-old Haaland
😎 Erling Haaland ended a run of four games without a goal for Norway to score a late winner against Luxembourg last night
🤯 He has 48 goals in 52 games for club and country in 2020/21. He’s only 20… pic.twitter.com/Nhv0A3KyXj
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) June 3, 2021
Walsh and his team of scouts had been keeping a close eye on the then-unknown Haaland while he was at Bryne in the Norwegian second division and identified him as a potential future superstar. “I had Salzburg striker Erling Haaland and his father convinced over a move for €4m,” Walsh said during an interview with The Athletic in 2019 when Haaland was at the Bundesliga side. However, after a four-day trial at Everton and despite Walsh recommending offering him a contract, both Koeman and Everton decided against signing the teenager, who eventually moved to Molde under current Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The rest is history. Haaland joined Salzburg in January 2019 where he banged in 29 goals in 27 appearances, attracting the interest of several of Europe’s biggest clubs. Dortmund would eventually sign the forward for a fee in the region of €20m, with Haaland worth almost a goal a game for the Bundesliga giants with 57 in 59 appearances.