Erik ten Hag reached out to Ivory Coast star after ‘super emotional’ AFCON glory | Football

Sebastien Haller had a very successful time at Ajax with Erik ten Hag (Picture: Getty Images)

Erik ten Hag has been in touch with Sebastien Haller after his late winner for Ivory Coast in the Africa Cup of Nations final for Ivory Coast, with the pair maintaining contact after their spell together at Ajax and the striker’s cancer scare.

The former West Ham forward was the hero for the host nation at the weekend, scoring the final goal of the game in a 2-1 win over Nigeria as Ivory Coast won the tournament in Abidjan.

This came just 18 months after Haller was diagnosed with testicular cancer, a scare which came shortly after he left Ajax to sign for current club Borussia Dortmund.

It has been an incredible journey for the 29-year-old, who has bounced back to a career high point of winning the Africa Cup of Nations in fine style.

Ten Hag was Haller’s manager at Ajax, where the striker scored 47 goals in just 66 games and they have maintained a close relationship ever since.

‘I had direct contact with Seb on Sunday night after the final,’ said Ten Hag. ‘There has also been frequent contact during his period of illness. I tried to support him as much as possible. Of course, he had only been away from Ajax for a fortnight when the illness was diagnosed. For me too, that was a huge blow.

‘A sportsman in the prime of his life with a young family of three children and then such an illness. The way he dealt with it deserves great respect. He did not flee in anger but accepted it immediately and took everything he could to improve his chances of recovery and be resilient.

‘He has fought his way back tremendously and then it is great that this is now followed by such a well-deserved sporting highlight.’

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Haller scored a late winner for Ivory Coast against Nigeria (Pictre: Getty Images)

Things have not been going as well at Dortmund as they wre at Ajax for the striker, yet to scoer a Bundesliga goal this season and missing a penalty in the final game of the last season, costing his side the Bundesliga title.

‘This highlight is so much to Seb’s credit after everything he has been through,’ said Ten Hag. ‘His story is of course super emotional. From a sporting point of view, it was difficult for him. Last year he missed the title with Borussia Dortmund and missed a penalty in the decisive match.

‘That he then is now an African champion is great. Seb is a fantastic personality, a real team player. That attitude doesn’t suit a striker, but that’s how he always sets himself up. He is modest and humble, just a great player to have in your squad.

‘And he radiates calmness and tranquility. You can see that in his game. He is imperturbable and therefore able to score such a decisive goal at such an important moment in difficult circumstances.’


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