TOAt this time of year it was common for elegant young men of the 19th century to go on a grand tour of Europe. Enclosed within his velvet stagecoach, the brave traveler would pass from the royal court to the ancient city, enjoying the rites of passage: harpsichord studies in Bologna, a marzipan banquet in Nimes, a wonderful six-month teaching in the beautiful Etruscan fighting art. of a young man named Hercules on the docks of Istanbul.
It was interesting to see Erling Haaland embark on something of a modern superstar athlete equivalent this week. According to reports first published in Spain, Haaland has been seen making his way from Dortmund to Barcelona in the company of his father and, more importantly, his agent, the fascinating, vilified and devastatingly effective Mino Raiola.
More stops are planned – it is said – in Madrid and Manchester. And here we are, poring over photographs of sullen men in masks boarding airport cars, going over the details of meetings and staff, another highlight of the modern phenomenon of transference as a grand public theater in its own right.
All that seems certain at the moment is that Haaland will actually be leaving Borussia Dortmund this summer. Two things have set the clock ticking on this.
First the convulsions, the cooling and the impending downward shift in the European transfer market. The transfers themselves are said to be in crisis. In 2019, the big five leagues spent a record 5.5 billion euros on player deals. This was reduced by 40% in Covid’s first year. How, you ask, can anyone survive on such fine porridge, so few million dollars? If you have the most valuable trinket in the room, this is the time to collect it.
Second is, of course, Haaland’s amazing progress, the feeling that one man makes the field seem too small, the game too simple. He is a rare thing, a footballer who is tremendously simple in what he does. Run, shoot, travel in a straight line. It does all of these things to a more intense human degree. He will chase you. He will find you. It will stomp your traumatized form on the shortest route to the goal.
This type of talent has its own charge. Haaland is too big, too charged with potential energy, to allow it to stay in one place. Money and the demands of money will not let you rest. When Raiola said this week “With Haaland, everyone was wrong,” he sounded almost resigned, forced by powers beyond his grasp to launch this obscenely overrated public business.
And there is something grotesque about the numbers involved here, evidence of football’s completely skewed sense of value and scale, where its wealth should be distributed. At this point, it would be very easy to criticize the influence of agents, a source of constant financial leakage and also of malaise, abandonment and appeal to the market above all else.
Raiola, in particular, is doing himself no favors, a superagent who embodies the aesthetics of small, round sunglasses and sleek gut aesthetics, and who looks in most images like a local butcher. kind and successful who secretly wants to kill you. But he is a genuinely fascinating figure, and one of the few people near the rim of this volcano who at least seems to be staring at him wide-eyed.
Even his early deals in the post-Bosman frontier times stand out now.
Dennis Bergkamp and Wim Jonk al Internazionale? What strange witchcraft was this? Raiola sold Robinho, he sold Henrikh Mkhitaryan, he sold Zlatan repeatedly, he sold Paul Pogba to Manchester United. If the British Museum ever tires of polishing the Elgin marbles, it could probably fund a second full imperial sack by having Raiola sell them to the Greek government with a special bonus from Mino.
And now this: Haaland elsewhere for £ 150 million in a time of economic collapse. It’s okay to be shocked, alienated, and generally overwhelmed by the sums of money here. Most mega-money transfers are silly in any case. Look at the list and, of the eight best deals of all time, only Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid seems like a solid comeback, a function of Ronaldo’s miraculous talent more than any kind of logic.
The unpleasant heart of this deal is that it is happening right now, at a time when there is a crunch everywhere, when community clubs are threatened with collapse and when the common folks who fund this show, noses pressed against the crystal is suffering.
This is not magic money. Raiola’s cut, Haaland’s fee – this is your TV subscription, your match ticket, your club merchandise, your advertising value. This is what fuels this overheated souffle, just as the cries of national pride shared in each new TV deal are the sound of someone selling you your own game. Will this process meet any genuine resistance?
Those in power but excluded from the transfer circus seem more likely to do something about it. There is talk of new “solidarity rules” that would prohibit Champions League clubs from selling each other, a strange idea until the desired effect is separated, limiting massive money deals fed by wealthy owners who have terrorized some of the more. established clubs.
It is through this changing and tense landscape that Erling and Mino are now stepping forward to achieve what could be the last truly wild bargain of the boom times. Manchester City would likely have the will if they could find the finances, despite the current message: Haaland would transform the team into something irresistible. The two Spanish clubs have cultural history and their own ways of making money. Raiola has the will and the levers to make it work.
But the vast and alienating sums, the loss of human scale, the continued tolerance of all of this, well, that’s completely ours.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism