Forty words was all that was needed to shake European football.
No big announcement video, no build-up, and certainly no pianos. Manchester City let the signing speak for itself. Erling Haaland – the biggest prospect in world football – will be a City player next season. But you’d barely know it from City’s official media output.
Since that two-line statement confirming the signing, City have made little-to-no mention of Haaland’s arrival in the summer. The club could have milked the biggest signing of the transfer window for all it was worth – and it is certainly worth shouting about – but curiously, they haven’t.
“Manchester City can confirm we have reached an agreement in principle with Borussia Dortmund for the transfer of striker Erling Haaland to the Club on 1st July 2022,” read the 40-word statement posted on City’s website on Tuesday afternoon.
“The transfer remains subject to the Club finalising terms with the player.”
Even Pep Guardiola, visibly excited at the imminent signing, and sporting a massive grin at the fact that he wasn’t allowed to talk about it in his Tuesday press conference, deflected as much as possible on Wednesday before and after City’s win at Wolves. There were general platitudes for Haaland, but no wild praise or in-depth discussion of his new striker.
Instead, the focus is clearly on the final games of the Premier League season. A look on City’s website shows plenty of promotion for the tenth anniversary of the iconic Sergio Aguero ’93:20′ goal (and rightly so), previews of City Women’s FA Cup final this weekend, and the usual pre-match content ahead of the trip to West Ham on Sunday.
Aside from that one statement, you’d barely know that City had just completed one of their biggest-ever signings.
Compare that to other clubs in the Premier League, and it’s hard to imagine Manchester United, for example, underplaying such a huge transfer. They are widely mocked for their commercial focus on social media numbers, with signings retrospectively judged on how much reach they gathered on social media.
However, according to BBC Radio Manchester, City’s understated announcement still broke club records for interactions on social media – almost double the previous best on Facebook and Twitter, and more than triple on Instagram. That was when they had more time and put more effort into Jack Grealish’s signing.
Just imagine the opportunity ‘missed’ by not using Haaland’s signing for similar content creation, if that was City’s motivation.
In fairness, Borussia Dortmund’s reaction has been even more understated. There was a financial announcement on their website, detailing the official processes that have and will take place regarding the transfer, in legal jargon that seemed to be published to satisfy the authorities more than informing fans of a big transfer exit.
Both clubs have been keen to underplay the move, presumably with fixtures still left to play this season, and formalities to be completed. Even the players asked about Haaland have limited their excitement, reminding themselves, players and fans that there is still a league title to win. Dortmund boss Marco Rose said Haaland will get the chance to say goodbye to the club in their final Bundesliga game at the weekend, before insisting the club will move on without him.
Maybe once the season is finished and Haaland is officially a Blue, will City go all-in on exploiting the social media and commercial opportunities that his signing will provide. They followed Grealish around the CFA on his first day and held a welcome event outside the Etihad. There’s plenty of time for that with Haaland.
But while the top dogs at Old Trafford may be scratching their heads at why City have been so understated this week regarding Haaland, it goes to show the differing priorities between the two clubs. One is able to put a major signing on the back-burner because the Premier League is the priority.
The other brags about social media likes as they are of equal importance to on-pitch success. City know that the title is the priority, before setting out to win the next one with Haaland, and only then will they look at how many more likes and follows he’s given them.