Why Didier Deschamps should call up Sebastien Haller for France
Kylian Mbapp, Karim Benzema and Wissam ben Yedder were the only Frenchman to have outscored him across Europe's top five leagues last season, and he had as many assists as Paul Pogba. Any ideas? Alexandre Lacazette? Antoine Griezmann? No, quelle surprise, it's Eintracht Frankfurt's Sebastien Haller.
Paris Saint-Germain phenomenon Mbappe was in a league of his own, but Haller's 15 top-flight goals and nine assists put him comfortably in front of Arsenal man Lacazette and level with Atletico Madrid icon Griezmann.
With a direct hand in 24 goals, the powerfully built forward helped the opposition's net bulge more than any of his FIFA World Cup-winning compatriots bar Mbappe in 2018/19. Ooh la la, indeed.
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"Send Didier Deschamps a message and ask him," replied Haller when questioned by a journalist recently on how long it would be before he received — like Borussia Mönchengladbach's Alassane Plea earlier last season — a call-up from the world champions due to his sizzling Bundesliga form.
If the 24-year-old continues in his current vein, he won't require the media to act as a middle man — the France boss will be hearing him loud and clear as his stats will speak for themselves.
Like the mild-mannered, spotlight-shunning Plea, Haller will let his feet — not his voice — stake his claim for a senior international place as he has already learned that — as his motto on his personal website reads — "hard work pays off". And he has had to work hard.
After joining fabled French club Auxerre as a 13-year-old having battled through the debilitating growing pains of Osgood-Schlatter disease, he found himself a fringe figure at the second division club where he actually played with Plea while the Gladbach man was trying to forge his own reputation on loan from Lyon in 2014.
Frustrated with his career going nowhere slowly, Haller's January 2015 loan move to Utrecht looked as much of a gamble for the modest Dutch club as it was the Frenchman, who — with just six goals in 50 Ligue 2 outings — was anything but the definition of 'prolific'.
That would change quickly in the Netherlands though as he was involved in 11 of his team's first 22 goals after his arrival — scoring eight. With 41 strikes in 82 Eredivisie games and 15 assists, it was little surprise Frankfurt had their heads turned come summer 2017 when they brought him to Germany.
Those figures had also attracted attention in his home country and earned Haller a recall to the French U21 side after he had been left out for almost 18 months following his debut under former Bayern Munich man Willy Sagnol in 2013. He returned with the bang of a hat-trick against Estonia, a game in which Bayern's Corentin Tolisso also scored.
But while Tolisso, and the likes of Manchester City's Benjamin Mendy, Manchester United's Anthony Martial and Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Adrien Rabiot — all of whom played with Haller as he rose through his country's junior national teams — have made the final step to Les Bleus, Haller is still waiting in the wings.
And though he could qualify to play for Cote d'Ivoire through his Ivorian mother and wear the same shirt as his role model Didier Drogba, Deschamps need not worry about Haller having the je t'aime moi non plus - the love-hate - attitude to the country of his birth that has seen many other dual national players opt out.
"I have a lot of links with Cote d'Ivoire, but it was obvious for me to choose France," said the Frankfurt goalgetter, who grew up in Ris-Orangis in the Paris suburbs and whose youth club in nearby Bretigny was also where France internationals Patrice Evra and Jeremy Menez, as well as former Bayern man Medhi Benatia, played.
"It was a natural choice. It's the country that adopted my mother, so there was no hesitation." So it seems the only one waiting now is you, Monsieur Deschamps…
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