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Sébastien Haller, the Ivorian goalscorer who shines with Ajax

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Sébastien Haller made a stunning debut in the Champions League by scoring a quadruple against Sporting Lisbon on Wednesday. At 27 years old, the French-Ivorian striker of Ajax Amsterdam is finally coming of age and should be one of the stars of the CAN in Cameroon.

It took him only two minutes to score his first goal in Champions League. With the match between Ajax Amsterdam and Sporting Lisbon just getting underway, Sébastien Haller popped up to smash a ball past the post following a strike by his teammate Antony. A real recital and three other performances will follow (9e, 53e and 63e).

At 27 years old and for his first in the Champions League, Sébastien Haller is already entering the history of the competition. It is the 16the player to register a quadruple since it was renamed Champions League (1992). He succeeds Olivier Giroud who had achieved the same feat on December 2, 2020 for Chelsea on the lawn of Sevilla (4-0).

Most expensive recruit from West Ham and then Ajax

The son of an Ivorian mother and a French father, Sébastien Haller was born in Ris-Orangis, in the Paris region. He started playing football at the age of 9 and soon appeared on the radar of AJ Auxerre, which he joined at the age of 13.

In the prestigious training club, the striker quickly impresses and is soon outclassed. He quickly piled up goals in the U15s, even finishing a season with 50 goals in 19 games. At the age of 16, he was already playing with the club’s reserves in the CFA. He is launched in the pros in November 2013 and has the heavy task of carrying the weight of the attack Auxerroise despite his young age.

The linear progression stops there. If his finishing qualities and his aerial game are unanimous, he is criticized for a certain nonchalance. In need of playing time, he was loaned to the Netherlands, Utrecht, with an option to buy.

As soon as he arrives, he explodes. In his first match, he scored a quadruple against Dordrecht as an aperitif and finished his first season with 11 goals in 17 games. After two full seasons, he changed his tune again and was transferred to Eintracht Frankfurt for 6 million euros.

His duet with Luka Jovic makes the Bundesliga defenses waltz. The two men notably won the German Cup. Sébastien Haller finally catches the eye of West Ham, where he commits for five seasons for a fee of 50 million euros. He became the most expensive recruit in the history of the Hammers.

Ajax offers Sébastien Haller the opportunity to bounce back in the Netherlands. Bought 22.5 million euros, he becomes the most expensive recruit in the history of the Lancers, and even the Eredivisie. Sébastien Haller regains a championship he knows well and plays 22 matches and scores 13 goals, with a double Cup-Championship.

No European Cup on the other hand : as a result of an administrative dumpling, UEFA does not allow him to support Ajax for the Europa League. Enough to overmotivate him for his first in the Champions League.

“[…] It gave me different sensations. It’s kind of a dream. All your life, you wait to play these kind of matches. And now you score four times in your first game [de Ligue des champions]. It’s fantastic, but I really have to thank my teammates. They are the ones who put me in this position,” he reacted hot after his XXL performance.

The CAN in sight

Sébastien Haller has long dreamed of joining the French national team. He has been part of all youth selections since the U17s. With the Hopes, he participated in 20 matches and scored 13 goals. However, before the horizon clogged by competition, he made the choice of reason and finally opted for the Ivory Coast, homeland of one of the idols of his young years, Didier Drogba.

“I’ve been concerned about this for years. I made a lot of youth selections with Les Bleus, but at some point you have to make a decision. For this, you have to analyze your performance, look at the competition in your position, remember how old you are, and not lie to yourself, ” he analyzed in June 2021, interviewed by So Foot. “In parallel, the Elephant coach contacted me and came to see me. I took the time to think so as not to be mistaken. When one makes a choice, it must be assumed.”

Summoned by Ivorian coach Patrice Beaumelle, he hugs his orange jersey on the occasion of a double confrontation against Madagascar. In his first match, he even offered himself the luxury of scoring the winning goal for his new team, enough to reassure the Ivorians on his motivation.

“When I scored my first goal in my first selection against Madagascar, it was something. I was very, very happy. It was a great moment and I hope it was just the first,” he recalls for So Foot. “Before the selection, I [n’étais] went only twice [en Côte d’Ivoire]. When I went back with the Elephants, it was a pleasure to feel the Ivorian vibes, it feels good. Group life too, getting out of the club’s everyday life, it was great. And it helps to put it into perspective, you feel lucky when you are around players who do not have the same life, who earn 600 balls a month by training on rotten pitches.”

Seven years after their last success at the CAN, the Elephants have an appointment in January 2022 in Cameroon to compete in the African continental competition. In a squad that already has stars like Serge Aurier, Éric Bailly, Wilfried Zaha and Nicolas Pépé, Sébastien Haller will be an additional weapon in Patrice Baumelle’s arsenal to try to win the title, two years from an edition played at home.

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