Sebastien Haller: Ivory Coast and Ajax striker fires himself into the history books

6 months ago 3313
Ivory Coast striker Sebastien Haller scoring a penalty for Ajax AmsterdamAjax and Ivory Coast striker Sebastien Haller is the first player to score in his first six appearances in the Champions League

Ivory Coast international Sebastien Haller said he was "really happy and proud" to have set a Champions League goalscoring record that only Cristiano Ronaldo had previously achieved.

Only Haller this year and five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo, in 2017-18, have scored in all six group games of a Champions League campaign.

"It means a lot," Haller told Ziggo Sport television.

"When you start something, it's your dream to play these games and you want to do it well. I'm really happy and proud."

Dutch media are equally pleased with his feats, revelling in the unexpected exploits of a striker who struggled to convince in the Premier League with West Ham, whom he left for Ajax at the start of 2021.

The AD newspaper calls it a "fairytale" and says the striker "shot himself into the history books" with his eighth-minute penalty against Sporting.

With 10 goals from his six games, Haller is finding himself among the most exalted of company, given he is now one of only four men to have reached doubled figures in the group stages of a Champions League campaign.

When you learn that the other three are Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski - the three all-time top scorers in the Champions League (with 140, 125 and 82 goals respectively), it's easy to understand the adulation heading Haller's way.

He finished the group stage just one goal shy of Ronaldo's record of 11 goals in 2015-16, but equalled the tally of top scorer Erling Braut Haaland in last season's competition.

A belated continental impact in Amsterdam

Haller had a mixed time in England after joining West Ham for a club-record fee of £45m from Eintracht Frankfurt in 2019.

He netted seven Premier League goals in his first season with the Hammers, but managed just three in the top flight last season before his switch to the Netherlands in January.

"This is a club where I can compete in the Champions League and chase titles every season and it's that winning mentality that suits me," he told Ajax TV after completing his transfer.

Having previously struck five times in 10 European appearances for Frankfurt, his exploits this season are more remarkable after he was left out of Ajax's Europa League squad last season following an administrative error.

Haller's Champions League campaign started with a bang as he became the first player to score four times on his competition debut since the legendary Marco van Basten in 1992, as Ajax beat Sporting 5-1 away from home on matchday one in September.

The tall striker was quick to point to the success of the team as a whole, in winning every game of the group phase, after Tuesday's win.

"I feel great of course, but especially great with 18 points," he told Ziggo Sport. "We can be really happy and proud of what we've done."

The first player to score in his first six games in the Champions League, Haller is set to return in time for the knockout stage of the competition in February after his Africa Cup of Nations duties with the Elephants in January and February.

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