Could West Ham’s £45m striker come back to haunt Norwich City in the Premier League?
PUBLISHED: 08:00 30 August 2019 | UPDATED: 11:47 30 August 2019
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Fans of both West Ham and Norwich City will be keeping a keen eye on £45million striker Sebastien Haller at London Stadium this weekend, after the Frenchman’s bright start to Premier League life.
Haller turned down the opportunity to move to England back in January 2016, when the Canaries reportedly had a £6.5m bid accepted by Dutch club Utrecht, as Alex Neil looked to bolster City's top-flight survival battle.
The move fell through after the forward, just 21 years old at the time, decided he wanted to pursue Europa League football but legend has it that the tired training facilities at Colney had changed his mind.
That is all firmly in the past for both parties of course, with the Lotus Training Centre given a £5m revamp this year and City bouncing back to the Premier League to set up a meeting with their former transfer target.
It's a new regime in charge of City and the saga unfolded well before Daniel Farke had arrived in Norfolk but for those with an interest in European football, the development of Haller was difficult to avoid.
The former France Under-21 international eventually joined German club Eintracht Frankfurt in the summer of 2017 for around £6.5m and went on take the Bundesliga by storm.
An impressive 33 goals and 19 assists in 71 games led to speculation that Haller would be getting his first senior call-up to the World Cup winning France squad.
After his two goals helped West Ham to a 3-1 win at Watford last weekend, earning a first victory of the season for the Hammers, his Premier League career has been kicked into gear. That first France call hasn't arrived yet though, after the 25-year-old was left out of the latest squad for two Euro 2020 qualifiers during the approaching international break.
West Ham fans will be eagerly waiting to see more of their new club record signing at the London Stadium tomorrow though, after a difficult debut appearance.
Similarly to Norwich, Manuel Pellegrini's side started their campaign with one of the most difficult fixtures, hosting champions Manchester City and getting thrashed 5-0 by Pep Guardiola's team.
Haller played 90 minutes but couldn't open his account and then missed the trip to Brighton the following weekend due to a minor knock - before bursting onto the scene at Vicarage Road.
He put the Hammers 2-1 up in the 64th minute with a simple tap-in from a Felipe Anderson cross and made sure of the three points nine minutes later as he emphatically scored an overhead-kick as Watford failed to clear a corner.
West Ham boss Pellegrini is confident there is more to come from his £45m man as well, saying at Thursday's pre-match press conference: "I think he will improve a lot because it's not easy to know the Premier League.
"He needs some time to adapt to these kinds of defences, but scoring two goals in a game especially when he came back from a week that he couldn't play with an injury, I think will help him a lot to continue improving."
Haller was also named as Player of the Week by the stats gurus at WhoScored.com, who rated his performance against Watford as a 9.04 out of 10 - not quite the big 10 out of 10 that Norwich star Teemu Pukki managed the previous weekend after his hat-trick during the 3-1 win over Newcastle.
City fans will be quick to point out that Finland striker Pukki, with five goals to his name already, was a free transfer but Haller says the £45m paid by West Ham for his services will motivate him this season.
"A lot of people like to speak about Champions League, but not everything is possible in life," Haller told his club's website recently, when asked what persuaded him to join the Hammers. "For sure I had one or two good seasons but it's not sure that one Champions League club will say 'hey, come and join us!'. Life is not that simple.
"But West Ham is a good opportunity. When they first spoke with me, I knew they were ambitious. I could have come to West Ham one year ago. People don't really know it, but they came one year ago. But it was not my time to go to England.
"After six months in Frankfurt I wasn't ready. I needed to play more games. I needed to show them what I can do there. I needed to take my time.
"Now, I have come to a club who could offer me time to play. The fee of £45million, a lot of clubs pay that but, for West Ham, it's the biggest transfer. It really means something, when they spend an amount like that. You know they really want to use you. They don't say: 'If you don't perform after six months we will get you out'."