Sebastien Haller has scored goals in France, the Netherlands, England, Germany and beyond. - © Imago
Sebastien Haller has scored goals in France, the Netherlands, England, Germany and beyond. - © Imago

Sebastien Haller: 10 things on Erling Haaland's replacement at Borussia Dortmund


Sebastien Haller should have no trouble filling the boots of Erling Haaland at Borussia Dortmund, given his penchant for sticking the ball in the back of the net. takes a closer look at the career of the unflappable goal machine...

1) Quicker than Ronaldo, Messi and Lewandowski

Haller joins Dortmund on the back of a record-breaking season in front of goal in the UEFA Champions League. The 28-year-old registered 11 goals in eight matches, only failing to fire in Ajax's last-16 second loss to Benfica.

In doing so, he became the first player to score in all six group games in his debut season in the competition; the second to score four on his debut outing after Marco van Basten, and second to register in all six group outings after Cristiano Ronaldo.

Robert Lewandowski, Lionel Messi and Ronaldo have also produced double figures for group-stage goals down the years, but Haller has done so in the fewest games (six).

Haller (l.) was on target home and away against Borussia Dortmund in the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League. - Borussia Dortmund v Ajax Amsterdam via images/ANP

2) Slow and steady, initially

That's not to say the goals have always flowed for Haller.

After being promoted to the Auxerre first team from the club's youth academy in 2012, he struggled to establish himself in the side and was eventually sent to Utrecht on loan in January 2015. Eleven goals in 17 matches later, the Dutch side swiftly made his move permanent.

Haller has not looked back since, and rippled Eredivisie nets a further 30 times over the next two seasons, while also scoring 13 in 20 appearances for France's U21s, having previously represented his country at every youth level.

The Paris-born forward hit 33 goals in 77 competitive appearances for Eintracht Frankfurt between 2017 and 2019, 14 in 54 games for West Ham United and 45 in 67 for Ajax.

3) Safe hands, better feet

It's quite the return for a player who could easily have been pigeon-holed as a frame-filling goalkeeper.

"I was actually a striker, but when it came to penalties in tournaments, I usually went in the goal," the 6'3" forward recalled of his younger days.

"Even then I was one of the biggest players in the team and had very good reflexes. We won some tournaments thanks to my efforts, but I was always happier when I was allowed to play outfield. Luckily, I scored enough goals. Otherwise I might have played as a goalkeeper more often."

Watch: Sebastien Haller's top 5 Bundesliga goals

4) Shattered windows, not dreams

Had Haller's parents had their way, he might not have played football at all.

"He kept breaking things," recalled Haller's father, referencing a few broken windows, vases and the like.

Despite briefly trying to steer Sebastien towards judo, mama and papa Haller eventually acknowledged their son's sizeable frame and talent were well suited to the beautiful game, allowing him to join his local club at the age of 10.

"It's a parent's job to nurture their children's talent," admitted Sebastien's dad. "And he had that for football in abundance. We're very proud."

5) Family values

The Haller family's commitment and love is not lost on Sebastien.

"My brother protected me all the time, and my parents kept me grounded," he said.

"They gave up a lot to get me where I wanted to be, running me to games as a kid. My father recorded me every weekend, even though he never knew anything about football. I won't forget it."

The humble Haller (c.) isn't known for excessive or indulgent celebrations. - Lukas Schulze/Bundesliga/DFL via Getty Images

6) Sebastien Haller, not 'The next Thierry Henry'

Haller grew up idolising Thierry Henry, but recognised early on in his career he didn't have the ability to play the same way as one of the finest forwards of the English Premier League era.

"I asked my mum for speed, but she couldn't give it to me," the West Ham and Ajax record signing told The Guardian. "I'm not one to go on long, dribbling runs either because I'm not good at it! It's a pity, but also a blessing."

"I always have to think twice about which choice I make, have to make room in a different way, really time my runs because it's difficult for me to overtake a defender. There were 10,000 boys with more talent on the streets where I come from. But it's the choices you make that make the difference."

Watch: Haller's eye for the spectacular

7) Cool-hand Seb

Haller's smarts earned him the nickname 'Cool Bird' at Frankfurt, where he helped a team coached by Niko Kovac win the 2017/18 DFB Cup and reach the 2018/19 UEFA Europa League semi-finals.

"Sometimes I'm going crazy inside, but I always try to stay cool," he explained of his unruffled approach and muted goal celebrations.

"The one time I was really emotional, maybe it was [scoring a penalty] after the birth of my daughter, but I don't really like to show it, even if I'm thinking about a lot things."

8) The Bulldozer

Kovac coined another nickname for Haller during the pair's time together at Frankfurt.

"He's a bulldozer, a challenge monster," the now Wolfsburg head coach said of the deceptively rock-solid Haller. "He's someone even a bulldozer wouldn't be able to move."

Such is Haller's raw power, EA Sports once made him the strongest player on FIFA 19, putting him ahead of cult hero Adebayo Akinfenwa, with a rating of 98 out of 99.

"You're one tough cookie!" Niko Kovac (r.) is a big fan of Haller (c.). - Imago

9) An Ivory Coast international

Haller's no-frills approach would have been a useful foil for the silk of France's Kylian Mbappe, but ultimately he plumped for a senior international career with Ivory Coast, his mother's homeland.

"I think it's not only about where you were born, it's also how you feel," Haller told CNN of his decision to represent the Elephants after a promising youth career with Les Bleus.

"For me it's both countries, and it's like you need to choose a part of you. Also we need to realise that it's only about football, and I was at a time of my life that I wanted to take a choice and the choice from Ivory Coast seemed to me the most appropriate."

Haller has four goals to show for his first 12 senior caps for the Ivory Coast. - Imago

10) Charitable

Haller is clearly a very sentient being.

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, he was among the English Premier League players who donated millions of pounds to NHS Charities Together, as part of the #PlayersTogether initiative.

"It was important for us to help because at West Ham we know and feel that the people who work here are very happy to be here and work with us," explained Haller, having also volunteered to defer his wages.

“Of course, it was a pleasure to help them, but it doesn't just affect the club. Other players also have the opportunity to help in their countries. Everyone tries to do something in their own way. We want to make sure that everyone can lead a normal life."