West Ham’s new £45m striker came close to joining Norwich during Alex Neil’s reign
PUBLISHED: 13:04 18 July 2019 | UPDATED: 13:04 18 July 2019
He’s just joined West Ham for a reported £45million but French striker Sebastien Haller came close to his Premier League chance back in 2016 when Norwich City tried to sign him.
Haller was impressing for Utrecht in Holland during the 2015-16 campaign and the Canaries were looking for front-line reinforcements to beef up their goal threat, with a bid of £6.5million reportedly accepted.
Aged 21 during the 2016 January transfer window, Haller made the trip to Norwich but was seemingly unimpressed with what he saw and swiftly backed out of a potential switch.
"The story was all that I was medically examined, it was rubbish," Haller told Dutch magazine Voetbal International at the time. "I was not going to play football at Norwich City.
"I have a different plan in my head and that is until the summer to stay with FC Utrecht and play in the coming months to try and get the club into the Europa League. Norwich is the only club that has come in so far with a bid.
"Apart from that I think a winter transfer too risky. You come to a new club halfway in and have to adapt quickly. There is actually no time for that.
"It's about me and finding the right moment to arrive at a good club; a club with a good plan for the future. For now my goal is really to achieve something with FC Utrecht."
Haller's agent revealed his client had visited Colney and that riled Canaries boss Alex Neil at the time.
"Who is saying he is going to sign today? People seem to know more than us, then," Neil said, with Cameron Jerome, Dieumerci Mbokani and Kyle Lafferty his forward options after Lewis Grabban's £8m move to Bournemouth.
"Obviously we have money from Lewis' sale we aim to re-invest. We have a host of targets we are trying to attract to the club. It is difficult to say how many. With the style we have adopted recently three strikers is more than enough cover to play that way right now. Certainly if one of those three were to leave we would have to add another striker to the books. I don't think there are any questions about that."
Gary Hooper was also sold to Sheffield Wednesday, reportedly for around £2.5m, and it was Steven Naismith who ended up arriving in an eye-catching £8.5 move from Everton - but it all went wrong for Neil and City crashed to relegation after a poor second half of the season.
Neil later said of Haller's desire for European football: "The one thing that surprises me is if he wants to play European football that is probably equating to the Europa League, and we are all aware the Premier League is bigger than the Europa League.
"So if he comes here and scores goals in the Premier League I don't think it would matter whether you are in the Europa League because your stock would go a hell of a lot higher than if you score a few goals in the Europa League on a Thursday night.
"At the end of the day it is their decision to make to. I spoke to the player and everyone has their own set of circumstances and wants certain boxes to be ticked."
Things worked out okay for Haller though and he eventually joined German side Eintracht Frankfurt for £6.5m in the summer of 2017, going on to be a Bundesliga star with 33 goals and 19 assists in 17 games in all competitions - being beaten on penalties by eventual champions Chelsea in the Europa League semi-finals.
That has persuaded the Hammers to break their club record to finally bring Haller to the Premier League, signing a five-year contract.
It shows City's recruitment set-up must have had some decent scouting in place, even if Naismith's move went sour, as that January also saw the arrival of players including James Maddison, Ben Godfrey and Timm Klose.