Borussia Dortmund have a tough job this summer. Not only are they moving to a new coach in Edin Terzić but they also have to replace their top forward, superstar Erling Haaland, after his move to Manchester City. His 22 league goals and seven assists aren’t something that a single player will likely come in and contribute, which is why Dortmund are continuing their summer of spending by adding Sebastian Haller from Ajax.
Personal terms are already agreed, and the reported deal for €35 million which is a slight increase from Dortmund’s official opening bid. It’s unknown if there are additional add-ons in the deal.
Once Haller passes his medical, this would be Dortmund’s seventh addition to the squad and their second forward signing, after Karim Adeyemi from Red Bull Salzburg. In his first full season with Ajax, Haller scored 21 goals assisting seven more in the Eredivisie but it was his Champions League numbers that really caught the eye. Haller made a run at the Champions League golden boot with 11 goals in only eight matches.
The strong seasons helped put a disappointing spell at West Ham, Haller’s stop before Ajax, behind him. For the Hammers, Haller had 48 appearances but only scored 10 goals, assisting one more. While Haller has had a good scoring record since debuting for Utrecht at 20 years old, the West Ham spell was enough to scare teams off until now. It shows that while there may be money in the Premier League, it’s not always for everyone.
In a market without many top strikers available it’s interesting that Dortmund were the only team publicly interested in Haller’s services, as the fee would’ve certainly been in a team like Bayen Munich’s range as Robert Lewandowski looks to push his way out. And it’s not like Haller is a stranger to scoring in Germany. In his time at Eintracht Frankfurt 0.48 goals per 90 minutes during his two seasons at Eintracht Frankfurt. If you’re keeping track at home Haller’s well travelled career has taken him from Auxerre in Ligue 2, to Utrecht to Frankfurt for two seasons then to West Ham for two, then Ajax for another two, and now to Dortmund. That’s a lot of stops for a guy who is still only 28 years old.
The hope is that at Dortmund he can raise his numbers closer to his Netherlands average of 0.59 goals per 90, but even if he doesn’t, it won’t take much for him to repay the fee that is reported.
Obviously they want the goals, but what does Haller bring to Dortmund?
An elder statesman
Dortmund already have Donyell Malen and Youssoufa Mokoko on the roster, so adding Adeyemi to the mix means the team has three keys to their attack under the age of 23. While this is a squad that’s used to youth leading the way, Haller’s experience can be important, especially as Dortmund look to avoid crashing out of Champions League play in the group stage for a second year in a row. Haller has experienced the pressure cooker of the Champions League and shined while doing it with Ajax, and he also has the experience of playing in the Europa League which helps.
With over 300 appearances in his career, there isn’t much that Haller hasn’t seen, and having also dealt with the struggles of West Ham, he can help the young forwards if they hit rough patches in the Bundesliga. While you can’t put a price on experience, it’s an important quality for building a team, especially for a coach like Terzić whose only experience as a manager was as the interim job during the 2020/21 season after Lucien Favre was let go.
Going route one
There aren’t many better around the world than Haller at bringing the ball down in the air while still offering a serious threat at goal. Averaging 3.52 aerial duels won per 90 minutes played, according to STATS Perform data, Haller can bring the ball down with ease but he’s also better with the ball at his feet than he gets credit for. Ajax may pass more than most teams but Haller created 13 chances in Champions League play which was third-best on the team. He may have only registered two assists from those chances, but you can imagine that changing with an attack as loaded as Dortmund’s.
To topple Bayern Munich, the Black and Yellow need to be almost perfect and an important part of that is having a plan B if their initial plan doesn’t work. Hoofing the ball to Haller in a pinch isn’t the worst backup plan if they can’t break down a defense on the ground.
Goals, goals, and more goals
At the end of the day, forwards who scored 30+ goals are hard to come by in the transfer market. Only taking into account league play, Haller was the 29th overall top scorer in Europe. There aren’t many chances when players like this can be secured for under €40 million so it makes sense to take a chance on Haller as even if things don’t work out, the sum of money is a drop in the bucket for a club like Dortmund that has made plenty of money selling off assets over the years.