We try not to dwell on missed transfer opportunities around here. After all, most promising young talents were either offered to or scouted by any club worth its salt, so it’s not really news or a “gotcha” moment to report that Roma could have signed X player when they were a teenager. But, every so often, we catch wind of a kid who could have suited up for Roma and it's hard not to wonder what if. In fact, we dedicated an entire series to such questions when the pandemic really took root last spring.
Let's be clear about one thing: Roma did not pass on Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland. However, as Federico Balzaretti discussed in a recent interview with Radio Radio, they tried like hell to land the Norwegian forward when he was a teenager.
According to Balzaretti (translation courtesy of Football Italia):
Haaland had been promised to Roma...We spoke many times with his father and his entourage. But I think he didn’t choose Roma, like with Juventus, for a technical path. He chose to go to Salzburg for personal reasons.
In Italy, he might have had more difficulties at the beginning. There, in Austria, he instead had the opportunity to play immediately.
You see it in his next move to Borussia Dortmund after Salzburg too. He went to a strong team but not the absolute top, to continue growing.
Now he looks ready for the final and definitive leap.
Assuming Balzaretti means Roma were in the running for Haaland prior to his move from Molde in Norway to Redbull Salzburg in the summer of 2018, the then 18-year-old would have been joining Roma during Eusebio Di Francesco's ill-fated final season in Rome. Haaland played all of 88 minutes for Salzburg that season, so it's not likely he would have found much more time playing behind Edin Dzeko during the 2018-2019 season, but Haaland broke through in a big way the following year, scoring 24 goals and providing five assists in all competitions.
That breakthrough then resulted in a €20 million move to Dortmund in the summer of 2019. And all he's done since then is score 41 goals and chip in eight assists in 42 appearances for BVB, setting the stage for the next great football debate: Haaland vs. Mbappe
It's impossible to say if he would have enjoyed the same success with Roma as he did with Salzburg, and it's doubtful that Roma, in the dying days of James Pallotta's ownership, could have resisted Dortmund's overtures in the summer of 2019, but it's fun to dream, right?
At least we can sleep soundly knowing that Roma still had the greatest male Norwegian footballer ever: John Arne Riise.