So close, so far... Sébastien Haller propelled Borussia Dortmund to the top of the Bundesliga on the evening of the penultimate matchday last spring, scoring twice in the 3-0 victory over Augsburg, his second in a row. “We hope that he will be as successful next week and that he becomes the hero of the season,” said BVB coach Edin Terzic, “incredibly proud” of the Ivorian international striker (17 sel. , 5 goals). And added: “Whatever happens in the standings after the next match, the biggest miracle is that he is with us again this season.”
The German technician was thus referring to the return of the native of Ris-Orangis after testicular cancer diagnosed just after his signing for Dortmund, in the summer of 2022, in order to compensate for the departure of Erling Haaland. After undergoing four cycles of chemotherapy and two stints on the pool table, Haller reunited with his teammates during the recovery camp in Spain last winter, after the World Cup. “We are simply delighted that he fully belongs to the group again, we are proud of him and the way he fought during this period,” Terzic said at the time. The former resident of the AJ Auxerre training center was quick to return to the form he enjoyed at Frankfurt (33 goals in 77 matches) and at Ajax Amsterdam (47 goals in 66 matches): nine goals in his 19 Bundesliga matches in 2022-23, including eight in nine matches in the final sprint of the season and before the duel against Mainz on the final day. The one which should allow Dortmund to break Bayern Munich's series of 10 coronations.
The rest, we know it... Borussia conceded a draw (2-2) and offered the coronation to its Bavarian rival. Haller had not been the hero, as his coach had hoped. On the contrary, he missed a penalty in the first period, making it 0-1 for the visitors. It is perhaps in the ghosts of this failure that we must look for the reasons for the silence of the person concerned in this complicated start to the season collectively for Dortmund, but also individually for the 29-year-old Franco-Ivorian. Four matches, zero goals. However, there is competition for his position. In addition to the young (18-year-old) Youssoufa Moukoko, Borussia recruited German international Niclas Füllkrug this summer. The latter is also to be credited with an assist for Donyell Malen during the victory in Friborg (2-4) last Saturday.
How can we explain this delay in starting Sébastien Haller? “He had an extraordinary preparation phase in December 2022, which allowed him to return to a level of performance that we knew from Frankfurt or Ajax,” analyzes Patrick Guillou, German football specialist on beIN SPORTS. Then, without rubbing salt in the wound, there is the missed penalty at a crucial moment in the last match against Mainz. Is he dragging this ball and chain?”, wonders the former Saint-Etienne player, further explaining that the Ile-de-France player “is a little less good in terms of liveliness and explosiveness. Afterwards, this type of player is capable of transcending himself for the Champions League. When the little music resonates, these players are able to concentrate and go for what ordinary mortals would not be able to go for,” he promises, before this duel between PSG and Dortmund this Tuesday (9 p.m. ), in Paris.
The ghosts of the past and a physique not (yet?) at its best? Yes, and its use too. Or rather, his technical relationship with his teammates. The departures of Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid) and Raphaël Guerreiro (Bayern Munich) did not help him, that is clear. “We play less as first intention on him,” continues Guillou. We are less close to him on his deviations. This is not the Sébastien Haller we saw in the return phase of last season. His technical relationship is good with Malen, it can largely be improved by Karim Adeyemi, who has not regained his splendor either, and with Julian Brandt. You have to get the ball out faster, try to find it immediately on certain restarts by skipping a line and play on your quality of calls.” Let's see if the air of his native region will allow Haller to find the net again this Tuesday, at the Parc des Princes.