FFT's Jonathan Fadugba profiles Haris Seferovic, part of the Switzerland squad hoping to make Euro 2016 qualification that bit tougher for England on Monday...
The 60 second story
- Name: Haris Seferovic
- Age: 22
- Date of Birth: 22/2/1992
- Height: 1.87m (6ft 1.5in)
- Position: Striker
- Clubs: Grasshopper, Fiorentina, Neuchatel Xamax (loan), Lecce (loan), Novara Calcio (loan), Real Sociedad, Eintracht Frankfurt (96 apps total, 19 goals)
- International Record: Switzerland (15 apps, 2 goals)
Haris Seferovic is a rare example of a player who seems to have been around forever and yet has his whole career ahead of him. He’s been known in Swiss circles for some time. Seferovic made history as a teenager at the 2009 U17 World Cup, scoring five goals – including the winner in the final – to make Switzerland world champions at that level for the very first time.
Showered with praise and touted as the future of Swiss football, he’s drifted from club to club in the five years since, playing in his native land, Italy, Spain and now Germany, after securing a £2 million move to Eintracht Frankfurt this summer.
A tall, physical striker who has roamed around without ever really finding a place to call home, Seferovic is now at an age and club where he can make a real go of his career and fulfil all the expectations placed on his shoulders from a young age. Seferovic scored at the World Cup, and he’ll now be hoping to establish himself as a first-choice striker for Switzerland in the post-Ottmar Hitzfeld era. Starting against England.
Why you need to know him
After leading his team to the World Cup second round in Brazil, legendary German coach Hitzfeld called it quits after six years as Switzerland boss and retired, handing the reins to new coach Vladimir Petkovic, whose first competitive game as manager will be against Roy Hodgson’s boys on Monday.
A naturalised Swiss citizen with Bosnian heritage – just like Seferovic – Petkovic has named just three strikers in his squad for the England game: Josip Drmic, Admir Mehmedi and Seferovic. Given the bright start Seferovic has made to his Frankfurt career, where he has two goals in three games so far, the 22-year-old is expected to play at least some part and is a dangerous target man England’s defence will need to be aware of.
Since bursting onto the scene at youth level it hasn’t been all roses, cheese and chocolate for the Swiss international, though. A number of questionable career choices have, one might reasonably argue, hindered his career rather than hastened it, and this is at least a partial explanation for why he hasn’t made more of a name for himself to date.
Seferovic’s career began with great fanfare when, at an U17 World Cup that included the likes of Neymar, Isco and Mario Götze, the 6ft 1in Swiss striker finished joint top scorer, losing out on the Golden Boot by way of one less assist than winner Borja. His winning goal in the final against Nigeria made him an instant national hero. The hype machine kicked in and his agent told local media that Barcelona and Inter Milan were keen on the teenager.
But it was Fiorentina who won the race to sign Seferovic, and from there began a difficult period familiar to many youngsters who sign up at big clubs before they’re ready. Seferovic ended up on the loan carousel. He was sent to Neuchatel Xamax – a disastrous move given the club was in a state of turmoil under controversial owner Bulat Chagaev. He was loaned to Lecce and Novara, where he found some joy in Serie B, scoring 10 goals. But he failed to make the grade at his parent club and didn’t complete a full game for La Viola in Serie A. In 2013 he was sold to Real Sociedad.
Arriving in San Sebastian, Seferovic spoke of new beginnings, of being ‘at the right club’ for him in the right league – a technical one where the tall, left-footed marksman could thrive. But again it was a false dawn. Seferovic showed early glimpses of his quality, scoring seven goals in six pre-season outings, but failed to make his mark in La Liga or the Champions League, managing just four goals in 39 appearances. His prospects in Spain were not helped when, in February, he was arrested for an altercation with his girlfriend while out celebrating his 22nd birthday after Real Sociedad’s 3-1 win over Barcelona.
Throughout a fairly turbulent club career, however, national team manager Hitzfeld has kept faith. Days after the incident in Spain, Hitzfeld called Seferovic up for a friendly against Croatia, and while Seferovic was on loan at Novara, he continually put his trust in the striker, whose impressive finishing and robust presence in attack impressed the former Bayern Munich coach.
Seferovic starred in Switzerland’s 1-0 friendly win over Brazil and World Cup qualifiers against Cyprus, and was eventually selected in Hitzfeld’s 23-man Schweizer Nati squad for Brazil ahead of the likes of Eren Derdiyok and Pajtim Kasami. The 22-year-old rewarded his manager with the winning goal against Ecuador in stoppage time – a key strike in helping Switzerland qualify, and has started life at Eintracht Frankfurt in scoring form with two goals in three games.
As a kid, Seferovic was more of an explosive No.9 whose physical frame and height made him stand out, giving him an advantage at youth level. A poacher who is lethal in the area, the striker is more Shearer than Henry – currently lacking the technique needed at the highest level but a livewire in front of goal and clinical when given the right service.
Seferovic models his game on another player of Bosnian descent – Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Frankfurt striker has a powerful left foot, drops deep to pick up possession and link play, and holds the ball up quite well too.
Seferovic is not blessed with the quickest of feet, it must be said, and can appear slow and laboured in his play sometimes. A successful spell at Novara aside, his goalscoring record is also well below what you’d expect given how prolific he was as a youngster. In his defence Seferovic might put this down to a hitherto nomadic career. At 22, now is the time to improve that record at a stable club in Frankfurt where he can settle down and become the undisputed main man in attack. So far so good.
His former national coach Hitzfeld has long been an admirer. "Seferovic is a full-blooded centre-forward who moves very well. He also has the physique to compete against robust opponents," his former manager said after the striker's winner against Ecuador during the World Cup. "What he lacks is playing time, which he unfortunately hasn't been getting at Real Sociedad. He already played very well for us in qualifying and he has talent, but of course he has room for improvement."
As a manager who won nine league titles and two Champions Leagues, we reckon it’s safe to assume the man known as ‘Gottmar’ knows what he’s talking about.
Did you know?
Seferovic was one of the leading lights of a new age of Swiss footballers hailing from a variety of backgrounds, including Xherdan Shaqiri, Innocent Emeghara and Granit Xhaka. The team’s successes on the field were seen as reflecting a new multi-cultural Switzerland off the field. Seferovic has spoken of his Muslim beliefs but admits that he “has eaten pork”.
- Shooting 8
- Heading 7
- Passing 6
- Tackling 5
- Pace 6
- Dribbling 5
- Creativity 6
- Work-rate 8
What happens next?
It remains to be seen whether new Switzerland coach Petkovic chooses to select Seferovic against England, but either way the onus is now on the 22-year-old to lead the line for Eintracht Frankfurt in the Bundesliga and establish himself as a more reliable option at international level.
Nineteen goals in 96 senior appearances and two in 15 for Switzerland, though attributable to a stop-start career, is really no great shakes at all. Seferovic’s goalscoring record must rapidly improve if he’s to justify the unswerving faith placed in him by Hitzfeld and fulfil all the early potential. Starting, perhaps, against England.