Haris Seferovic
Haris Seferovic scored twice to help Switzerland knock France out of Euro 2020
Date: Friday, 2 July Kick-off: 17:00 BST Venue: Saint Petersburg Coverage: Watch live on ITV, radio and text commentary on Radio 5 Live, the BBC Sport website and app. Click here for more details

It was supposed to be a night of fun for Haris Seferovic.

A few hours earlier, the Swiss forward had watched from the bench as Real Sociedad beat a Barcelona side that included the likes of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets 3-1. As soon as the game in February 2014 ended, he wasted no time and rushed to San Sebastian’s old town to celebrate his 22nd birthday. At some point, however, things got out of control.

Instead of laughing with his friends, he found himself inside a police car after allegedly pushing his girlfriend amid a heated argument. Both were arrested but later released without charge, with no complaints filed by either party.external-link

It appeared to be the end of the road for the rising star, who had been compared to Sociedad legend Darko Kovacevic and signed to boost their Champions League campaign.

By the next summer, Seferovic was already packing his bags for good, only wishing to put his nightmare time in Spain behind him.

It has not been a smooth path, but he has managed to do so.

As Switzerland knocked world champions France out of Euro 2020 to make it to the quarter-finals of a major tournament for the first time since 1954, the Benfica player looked a new man. He grabbed the headlines by scoring twice and will now fight to exorcise old demons when he enters the pitch in St Petersburg to face Spain on Friday. It will be the peak of his career.

The 29-year-old took much longer than expected to get to this moment.

In 2009, he had scouts raving about him after leading the Swiss to the Under-17 World Cup title and finishing as top scorer with five goals, ahead of names such as Neymar, Alvaro Morata and Mario Gotze.

Seferovic was part of a generation that also featured Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka and Torino’s Ricardo Rodriguez, both of them members of the national team at this tournament.

Ultimately, the boy whose parents had fled Bosnia to escape war moved from Grasshoppers to Fiorentina the following year. He struggled to find the net in Serie A, though, being sent out on loan three times to Neuchatel Xamax, Lecce and Novara. At the latter, he forged a productive partnership with a young Bruno Fernandes.

Above all else, Seferovic was determined to prove he was no one-hit-wonder.

“Whenever he’s on the pitch, he has a killer’s spirit,” says former Switzerland youth international Max Veloso, who played with him at Xamax. “He has a lot of confidence in himself, knows his qualities and doesn’t need anyone to tell him how good he is.

“He’s very easy to play with because he doesn’t hide from the ball.

“He’s improved a lot because in the past he didn’t have the intelligence to realise when to wait a little bit and let the centre-back forget about him. He was always demanding a pass and didn’t finish so effectively. But the potential was there from the beginning.”

Real Sociedad saw it too, and decided he was the right man to play in their front three with Antoine Griezmann and Carlos Vela. Despite a promising start with a stunning goal against Lyon in the Champions League, he was often embroiled in off-the-pitch controversies.

Among other things, he posted a picture with a whisky bottle following a 4-1 defeat by Barcelona and then, a while after, told the fans to shush during a goal celebration.

Haris Seferovic celebrates scoring for Real Sociedad
Seferovic proved a divisive figure during his time at Real Sociedad

Unsurprisingly, Seferovic was soon on the move again, this time to Eintracht Frankfurt. It did not work out there either. After three seasons in the Bundesliga, he was allowed to join Benfica for free in the summer of 2017. It was hardly a signing to set pulses racing – he actually had a reputation for collecting more yellow cards than shots on target.

It all changed in Lisbon, though.

At the Estadio da Luz, he has finally fulfilled his potential and become a 20-goal-a-season striker.

“He possesses an out-of-this-world work ethic, always pushing hard and willing to go the extra mile, so what I find odd is that it took so long for him to reach the level he has now,” recalls former Benfica fitness coach Paulo Mourao. “He was clearly a man on a mission.

“It’s telling about his character that despite having to prove his talent over and over, he remains solely focused on improving his game.

“There was a point when Benfica brought in two new forwards, Facundo Ferreyra and Nicolas Castillo, that he could have left, but instead he responded to that by working his socks off. And so, by the end of the season, what happened? He had 23 goals to his name. This is Seferovic, a five-star professional.”

In his love-hate relationship with fans, the Swiss footballer has been compared to a fast food restaurant chain’s employee of the month – someone who does everything right and yet never seems to please anybody.

It has been the story of his career, but his three goals at the Euros might change how he is perceived.

“Perhaps, after what he did against Turkey and France, people will start accepting that although he may not be a striker with an incredible technique, he’s still a useful player who will score here and there,” Veloso concludes.

If he does so against Spain, it will change how is remembered in that country forever.