Congratulations, Sebastien Haller! The Eintracht Frankfurt striker beat competition from Stuttgart's Benjamin Pavard and Hannover's Ihlas Bebou to be named the Bundesliga Rookie Award by TAG Heuer for October.
Sebastien Haller's path into the Bundesliga was a unique one to say the least. The Paris-born striker joined AJ Auxerre at the age of 13 and made his senior debut in the second division five years later. However, Haller did not make his breakthrough as a professional until moving to Dutch side FC Utrecht in January 2015. The powerfully-built striker scored goals for fun there, even if his eye for goal is only one facet of his game. "I always want to score goals, but I'm a team player first and foremost," said Haller. He demonstrated as much in his first few Bundesliga outings: no other player in the league contested as many challenges (201). He won just over half, an impressive return for a striker.
In October, Haller scored two goals and assisted one in two of three games played in October, against Hannover and Borussia Dortmund. His goal on the road against newly promoted Hannover displayed a softer side of his usual ability of power and acrobatics. This time, having been played in behind the opposition defence, Haller delicately chipped the ball over the oncoming Philipp Tschauner with perfect placement and timing. More proof that Haller has been, and now must be considered, one of the best complete forwards in the league.
After cutting his teeth at French side LOSC Lille, Pavard — then just 20 —made the bold step to cross the border and join Stuttgart. A successful Bundesliga 2 promotion season followed in which he made 21 appearances, reinforcing his reputation as one of Germany’s top up-and-coming imports. His name has been cast in an even more positive light in the top flight this season in which Pavard’s tight curls have been on display in every minute of every league game to date, making him a cornerstone of VfB’s early season success. Indeed, his versatility means he has almost been all four pillars supporting his club’s strong start, playing in midfield and across the defence, notably and to such good effect in the home win over Cologne on Matchday 8.
“His overall development is fantastic,” gushed his delighted boss, Hannes Wolf. “He’s really settled into it and has that right balance between wanting to play and getting the job done.” Wolf’s words of praise are reflected in Pavard’s impressive statistics: a team-high 349 touches in October with a 91 percent pass completion rate, tallies surpassed among Bundesliga centre-backs only by Pavard’s role model, Bayern Munich’s peerless Mats Hummels. News of his performances has even reached his home country where France boss Didier Deschamps has called him up for this month’s friendlies against Wales and then Germany in Cologne. Deschamps expects Pavard to play at right-back, exploiting his chameleon-esque qualities to adapt to his team’s needs. Pavard admitted he and his parents shed tears when he told them of his maiden call-up for his country, but there will be no shirking his responsibilities. As Pavard, now 21, says himself, “I’ve matured into a man.”
Meet the fastest player in the Bundesliga this season. It is only necessary to look back to Matchday 10 to see how difficult he can be to stop. The Togo international quite literally ran rings around Borussia Dortmund, scoring twice in Hannover's dismantling of the then Bundesliga leaders, in the process announcing himself on the top-flight stage. "It's an awesome feeling to score my first brace – and against Dortmund as well," Bebou told the club's official TV channel after the 4-2 triumph. "That things are going so well at the moment is great for the team."
If there was a tinge of modesty to his comments after almost single-handedly knocking the league leaders off top spot, it's no surprise. "Modest" is one of the words most commonly used by coaches when describing Bebou, who moved to Düsseldorf from Togo with his parents as an eight-year-old. One of his former coaches at Fortuna, Taskin Aksoy, said that Bebou would have been playing at the very highest level much earlier had it not been for a spate of serious setbacks. If his October form continues, perhaps it won't be long until we see exactly what Aksoy was talking about.