• Jue. Jul 18th, 2024

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Team Haaland: The people behind Erling – and why they think he could be worth £1bn one day

Team Haaland: The people behind Erling – and why they think he could be worth £1bn one day


The Erling Haaland brand has never been stronger. The Manchester City striker just became the first player in Premier League history to win the Golden Boot in his first two seasons, and his empire off the pitch is growing by the day.

He recently became the ‘Barbarian King’ in popular mobile game Clash of Clans. Soon after, he had legendary football figures Sergio Aguero, the Brazilian Ronaldo and Ronaldinho all bemoaning their lack of involvement as part of a major advertising campaign. This includes billboards in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Madrid, Milan and Munich.

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After Haaland signed for City two years ago, his agent, Rafaela Pimenta, stated that he could be worth £1billion one day, with salary, transfer fees and the potential for digital and virtual reality likenesses.

These are the leading figures and how they get the most out of one of football’s biggest stars.


Egil Ostenstad

The former Southampton striker is described as the chief financial officer of Team Haaland, having taken on the duties in 2022. After retiring from football in 2005 and spending time as sporting director at Viking, he rose to the role of head of private banking at Norway’s largest financial services group, DNB.

He is now responsible for managing the Haaland family’s finances, with an eye on investments for the future.

Ostenstad had a short spell at City in the 2000s, where he was a team-mate of Alf-Inge, Erling’s father. The two are long-time friends.

Ostenstad is the chairman of investment company Tyrannus, where Alf-Inge is the sole board member. It posted pre-tax profits of around £5million in 2022, the year that Haaland signed for City. It is the holding company for Alf-Inge’s two Norway-based property, investment and sports business companies.


Ostenstad playing for Southampton (Phil Cole/Allsport via Getty Images)

In recent years, Erling himself has bought properties in Oslo, Norway and, according to reports, started different companies. In March last year, E24 in Norway reported that Haaland had set up Pillage 3 AS in Luxembourg, although only Alf-Inge and Ostenstad are listed on official records now. There is also a Pillage 1 and 2.

“The company’s business is buying, selling and investing in shares, mutual funds, bonds and other forms of financial instruments,” according to its website.

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Erling is listed as an investor in Aquafigure, another investment company (Sapiens AS is also an investor) and Telenor, a telecommunications company.

Erling is listed as a director and “person of significant control” at York Promotions Ltd, set up in December 2022 and based in London. Julia Hoyle, a tax lawyer favoured by many footballers, is also listed as a director, alongside Alf-Inge.

His uncle, Astor, also advises on tax matters.


Rafaela Pimenta

Pimenta worked with agent Mino Raiola for over 20 years and took on his responsibilities following his death in 2022. She manages Haaland’s sporting matters, such as contract negotiations, as well as commercial, marketing and media relations.

“I like dealing with the Haalands because they expect professionality and they communicate clearly,” she told The Guardian in 2022. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman. They listen to you. It’s very refreshing.”

She also floated the idea of a digital Haaland during that interview, as she outlined how the striker could become worth £1billion.

“The multiples in the gaming industry are huge,” she said. “In the metaverse, maybe I sell a digital Erling Haaland for €2,000 to 100 million people in India, China, Brazil, Mexico. Maybe we will get to a point that I experience a football game with goggles, which triggers the same emotions as if I was there. You’re really going 3D with the virtual experience.

“So maybe we’ll sell the football game experience, not only to broadcasters but to individual people who can never afford or find the ticket to the Bernabeu or the Etihad. They can experience the game as if they are there. So when I say one billion I am using multiplicators beyond the physical.”

Since then, the Premier League has signed a multi-year deal with virtual reality developer Rezzil, to work on a VR game set to be released later this year. “The game will place users on the pitch and in the boots of their favourite Premier League players,” a statement reads, “offering fans a unique opportunity to recreate iconic Premier League goals and moments from within the perspective of virtual reality.”

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Haaland is not directly involved in that particular project but it demonstrates the growth in that industry and the potential for highly marketable footballers who are surrounded by enterprising minds.

As an example, it was Team Haaland that approached Clash of Clans with the idea of putting Erling in their game, rather than the other way around.

He has become the first person to become a character in the franchise, and he takes on the role of the ‘Barbarian King’.


Haaland as the ‘Barbarian King’ in the game (Clash of Clans)

“When we think about the types of partners we want to team up with, it’s a challenge to find a brand or celebrity with the cultural clout and social media footprint that will help us achieve our goals,” Anna Bouveng, Clash of Clans marketing lead, tells The Athletic.

“The impact it’s had on the business has been huge. The partnership has been our most successful campaign in many years, and we’ve seen a surge of new downloads, as well as re-engagement of past players, since Haaland arrived in the game on May 1.”

Erling also has multiple other big-money deals with various companies: last year he signed the biggest football sponsorship deal in history with Nike, reported to be worth £20million over 10 years. He is also part of watch manufacturer Breitling’s ‘All Star Squad’, alongside Milwaukee Bucks power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Haaland features on a Breitling storefront in Las Vegas and the company’s CEO Georges Kern said at the time of the deal that “Erling Haaland is exactly what we look for in a squad member. He is the absolute embodiment of Breitling’s casual and inclusive luxury”.

He also has more niche tie-ups with Norwegian companies like Bama, which exports fruit and vegetables, and the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Considering he eats around 400g of prawns and huge steaks after every match, he is an ideal exponent of his country’s produce.


Alf-Inge Haaland

Erling’s father has not had to be so hands-on in recent years, as the team around the striker has grown, but he essentially has a hand in every facet of his son’s interests on and off the pitch from day one.

He always worked alongside previous agents in Erling’s teenage years and then brokered the family’s arrangement with Raiola, following a meeting in Monaco.

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Alf-Inge’s influence when it comes to his son’s career path cannot be understated. While Erling was deciding who to sign for in 2022, Team Haaland sanctioned a documentary called The Big Decision to be made and screened by Scandinavian broadcaster Viaplay.

It shows how Alf-Inge, who is also a pundit with Viaplay, came up with a points system that helped them choose their next move after leaving Dortmund.

“I think City is the best team, Bayern Munich is second. We have Real Madrid at No 3 and Paris Saint-Germain as No 4,” he said, citing his system.


Alf-Inge with Erling after winning the Premier League title last season (Michael Regan/Getty Images)

It involved ranking teams out of 10 on different criteria, including their need for a No 9 that summer, the quality of the league (England and Spain were considered the best), the size of the club and fanbase, the club’s financial capabilities, their style of play and the manager.

Alf-Inge took on greater responsibility during negotiations with Erling’s suitors when Raiola fell ill in 2022. It was always clear during those talks that while the striker’s Dortmund release clause was low (at £51m — €60m — it was lower than publicly believed at the time), Raiola and Alfie would be due €40m and €30m respectively.

As well as his other investments outlined above, Alf-Inge is on the board of Sports Office AS and he had been helping to manage Erling’s growing finances before Ostenstad officially came on board.

In May last year, he moved to Andermatt, Switzerland. Many rich Norwegians have moved to the tax haven following tax increases implemented by the government.

He has a hand in everything related to his son’s career and keeps a keen eye on what is written in the media about the family, particularly back in Norway.

“He is a friend I can speak to every single day,” Erling says of his dad.


Ivar Eggja

Known as Erling’s ‘Uncle’, Eggja was best man when Alf-Inge married Erling’s mother, Gry Marita. He is the chief fixer for Team Haaland, and ensured that when Erling signed for City he moved into an apartment that was fully furnished with a well-stocked fridge. It was the same as when the striker signed for Borussia Dortmund.

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“I think if I had been all alone and had to choose my own apartment and go shopping in IKEA, I wouldn’t have scored three goals against Augsburg on my Dortmund debut,” Haaland has said.

He has taken care of basically everything for years now, even including the technical details of online interviews with Erling. Eggja has a hand in commercial partnerships, too.

 

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Eggja has a business background, having opened two shoe shops during the 1980s in his home town Bryne, where Erling grew up. He also opened a bar and restaurant with Alf-Inge, although that closed in 2014, and has invested in nightlife hotspots in Marbella, where Erling has a villa and spends a lot of time.

Whenever the television cameras zoom in on Alf-Inge in attendance at a City match, chances are that Eggja is there next to him — whether that is in Nottingham, Athens or Copenhagen.

He has worked in shipping and has lived in Toronto, and is also a personal trainer, enabling him to offer Erling advice on how to look after himself, particularly when it comes to his voracious appetite. The two are very close and get on like friends, and he is also popular with Haaland’s friends.


John ‘The Fix’ Haddad

Haddad became Haaland’s personal trainer in 2020 and describes himself as a biomechanics expert.

Haddad is a colourful character; he used to work as a jeweller and was raised in Los Angeles, CA. He is now based in Lebanon. He calls himself ‘The Fix’ after helping various athletes overcome different biomechanical problems, and began working with Haaland by helping him recover from a hip problem.

 

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During the 2022 World Cup, he said he helped two players recover from hamstring tears quickly.

He owns a company that produces glasses that filter light. Haaland has been interested in this since he learned the importance of sleep and the absence of screens before bedtime during his time in the Bryne academy as a teenager.

Despite moving to Manchester, Haaland believes in the benefits of direct sunlight. Haddad has helped in that regard, with a picture on his Instagram account showing the two of them on a beach at sunrise.

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Haaland is also a big advocate of ‘grounding’ — standing barefoot on the ground — as he believes it removes negative electrons. Sunlight, drinking filtered water and grounding forms part of Erling’s morning routine, where possible. Some of his habits, including the glasses, have rubbed off on many of his Norwegian team-mates, who are looking to get the same edges.


Mario Pafundi

Pafundi is a former professional cyclist who also worked at elite level in the sport, including as team carer at Team Sky until 2016, when he joined City.

City’s medical department conduct MRIs and ultrasounds on Haaland to monitor his development. They then use the results to tailor his training schedule and even the minutes he plays for Guardiola’s first team — although he is only substituted early if the game is considered safe by the manager.

Pafundi, from Pietragallia, Italy, gives Haaland countless massages in his role as a sports therapist and he has been charged with looking after the striker even away from the training ground.

Not only does he accompany Haaland during international matches with Norway, working alongside their staff, but even when Haaland spends time at his villa in Marbella, Spain. This no doubt contributes a lot to the sunshine quota. Haddad has also been known to join them there.

Haaland is said to be investing in property in the Spanish city, too.

(Top photos: Getty Images)