It wouldn’t be a surprise if Premier League clubs have scaled up their scouting network in Austria.
The country’s dominant side – Red Bull Salzburg – have gained a reputation as a breeding ground for some of Europe’s most promising talents. Dayot Upamecano and Naby Keita both progressed through the club before joining their sister side RB Leipzig while Sadio Mane plied his trade at the Red Bull Arena prior to his switch to Southampton and later Liverpool.
Despite the talents of the above mentioned players, none were sought-after quite like Erling Haaland. The son of former Manchester City man Alf-Inge burst onto the scene last season, netting hat-trick upon hat-trick before links to some of Europe’s biggest sides emerged.
United were interested in signing the Norway international who had worked with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer during his time with Molde while Real Madrid were also considered a serious contender for his signature. However, Haaland opted to join Borussia Dortmund in the January transfer window to leave United fans disappointed. The youngster showed supporters exactly what they missed out on by making a blistering start to life in Germany.
Solskjaer ended up bolstering his striking options with the loan addition of Odion Ighalo following Haaland’s rejection and the Nigerian has proved to be a useful back up to Anthony Martial. While a new forward isn’t currently a priority given the Frenchman’s current form, expect United to return to the market for a new forward when Ighalo’s loan spell ends in January. The Reds should look no further than Salzburg for their new recruit.
In Haaland’s absence, one man has stepped up to the plate – Zambian international Patson Daka.
The 21-year-old joined Salzburg in 2017 and was placed in their youth setup, helping the Austrian side win the UEFA Youth League before making his senior debut for the club in the following season. Haaland’s extraordinary form restricted him to mostly substitute appearances but Daka took his chances when given a starting berth, ending the season with 24 goals in 31 appearances including eight assists.
With Haaland out of the picture, Daka is now the main man in Salzburg and has made a fast start to the new campaign, netting in the first league win of the season as well as scoring four in the opening round of the Austrian Cup. Rumours are already starting to begin that Daka could be the next Salzburg star to make the jump to a top European side with Tottenham and Arsenal linked with a move for the forward.
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Daka possesses lightning pace which suggests he could be used as the central forward or on the left of the front three. Similarly to Ighalo, the youngster is a poacher who does his best work in the penalty area. Daka averaged significantly more touches in the penalty box (6.58) than Martial (4.53), Rashford (4.09) and Greenwood (3.91) last season. Furthermore, he boasts a higher goal conversation rate than all of United’s current forwards.
If his impressive performances continue, United could face a struggle to secure his services if they do decide to pursue his signature.
It remains to be seen whether Daka can replicate such form in a division as competitive as the Premier League but the development of his predecessors suggest the move can aid his career progression rather than hinder it. United left it too late to secure a deal for Haaland and shouldn’t make the same mistake with Daka.