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Borussia Dortmund

Meet the scout who found Erling Haaland, signed N’Golo Kante and had a £1m release clause


Everton fans may wince at the thought of what they could have achieved if only manager Ronald Koeman had listened to the advice from his recruitment chief Steve Walsh.

Back in 2016, scouts at the club had been observing a certain Erling Haaland, who had earned rave reviews whilst playing for local club Bryne in Norway.

Haaland, who was only 16 at the time, had been identified as a potential star of the future for the Toffees and available at a bargain price of just €4million (£3.4m), it seemed like a risk-free move.

Walsh apparently made the recommendation to the club after Haaland underwent a four-day trial only to be met with a dismissal, and the teenager went back to his native land.

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Erling Haaland could have been playing in Everton colours if Steve Walsh got his way
Erling Haaland could have been playing in Everton colours if Steve Walsh got his way

“Erling Haaland, the striker with Salzburg, I had him and his dad at the club with a deal done for £3.4m. The club wouldn’t back me,” he told The Athletic in an interview in 2019.

Little did they know that the Norwegian sensation would go on to shine in the way he did at Red Bull Salzburg, before a lucrative switch to Borussia Dortmund in January 2020. Now, he is rated at around £100m and one of the most feared strikers in football.

Walsh also claimed the club passed up on signing Andy Robertson and Harry Maguire in a £20m deal from Hull and the pair went on to join Liverpool and Manchester United respectively. Based on his previous record alone, the club should have trusted his judgment.

The scout had forged a stellar reputation after spending years as a scout at Chelsea, having been involved in the signing of Didier Drogba. He also spent time with Newcastle before moving on to Leicester City.

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Steve Walsh and Ronald Koeman combined to bring the likes of Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane to the club between 2017 and 2018
Steve Walsh and Ronald Koeman combined to bring the likes of Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane to the club between 2017 and 2018

It was there where the Englishman made a huge contribution, spotting Jamie Vardy while he was playing for non-league Fleetwood Town back in 2012.

The 34-year-old has gone on to become a club legend with 147 goals in 352 appearances, cementing his status as one of the Premier League ’s most lethal strikers in recent years.

Then there were the bargain buys from the French second tier, snapping up Riyad Mahrez from Le Havre for just £500,000 and the indomitable N’Golo Kante from Caen for just £5.5m.

Steve Walsh worked alongside Claudio Ranieri at Leicester City
Steve Walsh worked alongside Claudio Ranieri at Leicester City

The pair were instrumental in Leicester’s title success in 2016 and were later sold for a combined £92m.

His pivotal role in helping Leicester unearth gems like Mahrez and Kante convinced the club they should protect themselves in case another club registered their interest.

Such was his value to the club, when Walsh penned a new contract in 2016, the Foxes included a release clause of £1m — a clause almost unheard of for non-managerial staff members.

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But his success stories did not go unnoticed by Everton, who were keen to find the right man to lead their recruitment after billionaire Farhad Moshiri’s takeover in 2016.

It was time for Walsh to move up in the football world and he was appointed director of football later that year, tasked with helping the Toffees close the gap on the ‘big six’.

The opportunity to have a direct hand in their transfer business, as opposed to recommending targets for Leicester, seemingly matched a man of Walsh’s ambitions.

After Everton’s miss with Haaland, which player did you want your club to sign before they became well-known? Have you say in the comments section.

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Davy Klaassen arrived for £25m from Ajax but left Everton after just one season
Davy Klaassen arrived for £25m from Ajax but left Everton after just one season

It felt like a good fit. Unfortunately, what followed was an expensive nightmare.

Under Koeman and Walsh’s guidance, Everton splashed out £150m on Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jordan Pickford, Michael Keane, Nikola Vlasic, Sandro Ramirez and Davy Klaasen.

Despite throwing extortionate sums at buying new players, Everton saw little progress on the pitch and were languishing in the relegation zone in December 2017 when Koeman was sacked — leaving Walsh as the scapegoat.

It got progressively worse too, as Walsh tried to atone for the club’s wretched summer of spending.

Turkey striker Cenk Tosun arrived for £27m in January 2018 but failed to replicate his form with Besiktas. Four seasons later, he has scored only nine goals for the club.

Amid significant unrest, it became increasingly obvious that the Walsh’s tenure at the club was coming to an end and he was replaced by Dutchman Marcel Brands in May 2018, leaving Walsh unemployed and with a black stain on his impeccable record.

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Fortunately, it wasn’t too long before he found a new opportunity after being hired in 2020 as a special adviser with new MLS franchise Charlotte, based in North Carolina.

Steve Walsh came under fire for Everton's poor results after spending £150m
Steve Walsh came under fire for Everton’s poor results after spending £150m

Walsh was brought in as a consultant to oversee the franchise’s management and recruitment, scouting players and finding a head coach ahead of their debut campaign in 2022.

“It gives me the opportunity to be part of something special and I am truly excited for the challenge.

“Our aim is to give the soccer fans of Charlotte a team of which they can be truly proud.”

Walsh may relish the chance to reset and, with some luck, help Charlotte eventually grow to take on their MLS rivals — just like he did with Leicester.





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