Sebastien Haller: Ajax and Ivory Coast striker 'unparalleled' in debut Champions League season

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Sebastien Haller celebrates a goal for AjaxSebastien Haller has scored 14 goals in 15 appearances for Ajax in the Dutch Eredivisie and the Champions League this season

Ajax striker Sebastien Haller is breaking new ground in the Champions League, joining an elite club which not even Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski are a part of.

Haller has become just the fifth player to net in his first four appearances in Europe's top continental competition, emulating Ze Carlos (FC Porto, 1993-94), Alessandro del Piero (Juventus, 1995-96), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid, 2013-14) and Erling Braut Haaland (RB Salzburg, 2019-20).

The 27-year-old scored his seventh goal of the group campaign in Wednesday's 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund, a result which secured a place in the last 16 for the Dutch giants with two games to spare.

Ajax's Twitter account dubbed him "King Haller"external-link in response to his extraordinary scoring run but the player was quick to share the credit for the side's exceptional progress.

"The way we play brings me a lot of opportunities to score goals," he told Dutch TV.

"I'm just happy and satisfied with this performance, to help the team. With the fans, to share those moments with them is something you cannot describe - that's why we play."

Ivory Coast international Haller had produced one of the great Champions League debuts against Sporting Lisbon in September, scoring four times in a 5-1 triumph in Portugal.

He became the first player to score four goals in his first game in the competition since Marco van Basten for AC Milan against IFK Goteborg in November 1992 - although the Dutch forward had already played for the Italian giants in the European Cup.

Van Basten, who scored 154 goals for Ajax before his move to San Siro, watched the Dortmund game as a pundit for Dutch TV and thought it was not the best performance Haller has turned in this season.

"[The goal] was really the only good thing that Haller did, I have to be honest," van Basten said. "But even if he restricts himself to those important moments, then he does what he's there for."

A long way to go to match Ajax great Cruyff

De Telegraaf, the Netherlands' best-selling newspaper, describes Haller's contribution as an "unparalleled debut season" in Europe's top competition.

With two assists to his name as well, he has a Champions League-high nine goal involvements so far in 2021-22, alongside Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski (eight goals, one assist).

The former Utrecht, Eintracht Frankfurt and West Ham man also boasts the joint-most goals after a player's fourth appearance in the competition, alongside Dortmund's Haaland.

De Telegraaf compares Haller's record to the only three players who have more Champions League goals than him for Ajax, and points out that Jari Litmanen, Patrick Kluivert and current captain Dusan Tadic all took much longer to reach his current tally. external-link

Of course, every Ajax goalscorer is marked against the great Johan Cruyff, and De Telegraaf makes it clear that Haller has a long way to go to match his record of 19 goals in 41 matches for the Amsterdam giants, in the original European Cup.

But the statistics still make impressive reading for Haller, who was forced to wait to make his continental debut for Ajax after being mistakenly omitted from their Europa League squad earlier this year.

Ajax boss Erik ten Hag blamed a computer error when the Ivorian was not included on a list of players submitted to Uefa following his January move from the Hammers.

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