When Luka Jovic scored five goals against Fortuna Düsseldorf, the spotlight was his to enjoy and rightly so. Jovic’s game was a once-in-a-lifetime performance and should not in any way be overshadowed by the antics of an apologetic hipster. But one man has been lurking in the shadows of other players for too long, his ability to knock long balls down has often gone unnoticed and his assists have made goals possible for both Ante Rebic and Luka Jovic. I am of course describing the French striker Sébastien Haller.
Niko Kovac and Fredi Bobic decided to sign Haller from FC Utrecht last summer to make up for a faltering flame in Alexander Meier. Haller was supposed to be the next football god, the next tall and strong Sturmer to take on the German top flight. He started off with a few mediocre performances and his first goal came in an exhibition match against a local team. However, after this he started to hit the target on a regular basis and his autumn form could be epitomised and defined by his sensational scissor kick goal in the 93rd minute at home against VfB Stuttgart, a goal that won Eintracht the game in extraordinary fashion. This was perhaps a sign of things to come, or so we thought and hoped, but his spring wasn’t at all as good as we would have cheered for.
Instead, he was replaced by an in-form Luka Jovic who started to find the net more regularly and more consistently as the season went on. When the season ended and Frankfurt were up against Bayern Munich in the final of the DFB-Pokal, Haller wasn’t in the starting eleven, dispute being a big part of the set-up that had shocked Germany before. Kevin-Prince Boateng took his place and did extremely well at that.
The summer came and the rumours started to flood the Main area. Haller was rumoured to many clubs in France and Spain, but no bids were considered, let alone accepted. He instead opted to stay, or Eintracht decided to keep him, to play for new coach Adolf Hütter, an attacking mind with a more free-flowing philosophy than his predecessor Kovac. Things changed rather rapidly and Hütter gave him more space, butstill a more defined and refined position on the pitch. He was allowed to roam, but his main purpose was to act as a wall in attack, a player that the more mobile attackers could use to get behind enemy lines. Haller’s intelligence and clever approach to his opposition made this the perfect role for him.
Before that game against Fortuna Düsseldorf, Eintracht had three straight wins in all competitions. And one certain pass combination had proven to be the most efficient attacking weapon they could bolster – Kevin Trapp to Haller. Trapp with a long ball that was to be knocked down by Haller. The knock down was then used to build momentum in the opposing half and often resulted in a dangerous opportunity for Rebic or Jovic. The attacking weapon Haller possesses is more potent than anything Eintracht has had in years. He is tall, strong, an eternal attacking presence and has without a doubt been the best attacking player at Eintracht thus far.
However, his importance to the squad is great in other aspects as well. He has developed into a proper leader that can guide his fellow attackers onto greatness. His finishing makes him a very potent player in front of goal and the ability to roam across defences with his long legs has also made him extremely difficult to face, no matter who you are or how good you might think you might be. A question needs to be posed here whether he is the most important player in Bundesliga, but that his very arguable. But who can dethrone him? I can barely thing of anyone capable of the feat.
Sébastien Haller was brought in to replace Alexander Meier and he has done just that. Perhaps not in locker room presence and as a statue of the city, but as a football player and a leader on the pitch. His abilities are similar, his size is similar and his actions on and off the field remind us all of the old Fußballgott. Perhaps Haller is the replacement Frankfurt have been yearning for, this season definitely points to exact that.
By Axel Falk.