Borussia Dortmund chief Sebastian Kehl has admitted that they may be powerless to prevent Erling Haaland from leaving the club this summer amid interest from across Europe in the No 9.
Dortmund were dealt a punch to the gut on Saturday by rivals Eintracht Frankfurt who were 2-1 winners at the Westfalenstadion thanks to Andre Silva’s late effort.
That left the Yellow Blacks seven points behind their fourth-placed Bundesliga rivals with just seven games to go of the season.
Dortmund may now have to win the Champions League to secure their spot in the same competition for next season but face Premier League champions elect Manchester City in the quarter-finals.
If Dortmund do not have Champions League football for the 2021-22 season then their chances of losing frontman Haaland, who has 49 goals in 50 appearances, greatly increase.
The 20-year-old’s future is already the subject of widespread speculation and the player’s father Alf-Inge and agent Mino Raiola met with Barcelona and Real Madrid this week.
Manchester United, Man City and Chelsea are the Premier League clubs keen to sign the Norway international, who could cost in excess of £130million this summer.
Kehl, the former Dortmund captain and now the club’s head of first-team football, says they too have sat down with Raiola and Alf-Inge Haaland to discuss the Scandinavian striker’s future and that they had promising negotiations.
Yet Kehl admits that it may get to a point where Dortmund are unable to prevent Haaland moving on, which may be referring to their uncertain Champions League status and the increasing likelihood they will instead be playing in the lesser Europa League.
“Our position is clear: we are planning with Erling,” Kehl said on Saturday. “We are very relaxed about that.
“Of course, we have been following the situation. But we had a very, very good talk with Mino and his (Haaland’s) father just recently.
“I don’t want to go into those talks now. From a certain point on, we may no longer be able to influence what the future will bring.
“I have seen the boy in training in the last two days and I have seen how hungry he is and the sparkle is in his eyes.
“We are very ambitious, we need Erling to achieve our sporting goals, and we have made that clear.”
Haaland can leave for around £64m in the summer of 2022 due to a release clause in his contract but Dortmund could sell him for over double that this year.
Yet they would prefer not to lose the prolific frontman given his output and the fact new manager Marco Rose is coming in at the end of the season.
United-linked winger Jadon Sancho’s future in the North Rhine-Westphalia state is also uncertain, and Dortmund would surely be loathed to losing both in the same summer given their importance.
Kehl’s comments come after Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc said this week: “I spoke to Raiola yesterday. We made our intention clear.”
United, Chelsea and City are all expected to pitch themselves to Haaland’s representatives in the coming weeks.
City have the advantage of an already harmonious relationship with the player’s father Alf-Inge, who spent three years playing for them between 2000 and 2003.
Though Citizens boss Pep Guardiola said on Friday: “With the prices we are not going to buy any strikers, it is impossible, we can not afford it.
“I want to be clear, maybe we can find a player to replace Sergio. In terms of numbers he might be replaced but what he means to this club it’s impossible.
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“We have enough players in the first team now and interesting players in the academy, and with the economy in world football now we’re not going to sign a striker this season.”
While United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said of Haaland: “Even though I worked with Erling it’s not right for me as Manchester United manager to talk about Erling, he will make his own mind up.
“I’m focusing on the next two months and whatever happens in the world of football there is only so many places anyone can go to and I just, focus on the ones who are here.”
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel was similarly coy and said when quizzed: “I will not answer that out of respect for the player and Borussia Dortmund. He is a Borussia Dortmund player and of course there is big news around him and his agent.
“It seems like they are creating a race a little bit for the player. But still everybody needs to accept, and I will fully accept, that this a player for Borussia Dortmund, a promising player of course.
“But no comments in respect to the [transfer] situation, he is not in our squad and not in our club. So we will not comment on anything else regarding Haaland.”