Tottenham Hotspur appear to be closing in on the signing of PSG right-back Serge Aurier if his legal issues back in France are sorted out, but is it a good deal for the club?
The 24-year-old Ivory Coast international, who has courted controversy in recent years, has divided fans ever since speculation began around a move to London.
football.london understands that Spurs have been involved in talks with the Ligue 1 side over bringing Aurier to the club in a £23m deal, but much depends on the result of his court appeal against an assault conviction as currently the defender cannot gain a visa to enter the UK.
Here are our pros and cons of signing the right-back.
The guy has talent
If you are able to leave all the baggage at the door, then it’s clear to see Aurier has talent. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Arsenal and more have all monitored his progress closely in recent seasons.
He was even once described as the Dani Alves of Ligue 1. His early career at Lens involved plenty of mentoring from a certain Jacques Santini – the former and brief Tottenham boss.
The Frenchmen said two years ago: “My little protégé, Serge Aurier, of course! I knew him at Lens and I had promised him a great career, which he is doing.”
Aurier has played in a World Cup and has Champions League experience as well, and could prove a talented addition to the Spurs squad.
He fits the Pochettino mould physically
As with Kyle Walker before him, Aurier is a real athlete of a player.
In his days at Lens he was nicknamed ‘The Bison’ because of his power and strength in the tackle and on the ball. He also has pace, a rare commodity at Tottenham right now, with the club lacking penetration down the wings in the absence of Kyle Walker and Danny Rose. Aurier is in the flying full-back mould.
The Ivorian is also versatile, one of Pochettino’s favourite skills, and he can play either at right-back, wing-back or on the right-hand side of a back three.
He began his career in midfield, idolising Michael Essien, before switching to defence when he turned pro.
He brings another option
The departure of Walker meant that Pochettino lost the rotation opportunities he was able to employ with the now Manchester City player and Kieran Trippier.
Both have very different skill sets and the Argentine could employ them in different ways against different opponents over the course of a long and hard season.
Aurier is very different to Trippier, more power and pace than technique, and will bring that alternative option once again for the Spurs boss.
Kyle Walker-Peters could perhaps provide that in time, but Pochettino has been very keen to point out how young the academy right-back is – despite being 20 – so he appears to see him as one for the future rather than the present.
All that baggage
With that talent, Aurier also brings a recent history of trouble. Last year he insulted then PSG coach Laurent Blanc and team-mates in a Periscope Q&A session, with language about his coach that doesn’t need repeating here and understandably outraged the LGBT community.
He was then found guilty of assaulting a police officer outside a nightclub, which he is currently appealing. He was then investigated by FIFA after making a throat-slitting gesture during Ivory Coast’s match against Mali, although it should be pointed out that in the same game he saved opponent Moussa Doumbia’s life after he had swallowed his tongue.
Just as Aurier began to sort out his tarnished reputation with some decent displays on the pitch, he was denied a visa to enter the UK for a Champions League match against Arsenal.
Then there was a strange incident in a Ligue 1 match against Lorient in March this year, when he was called from the substitutes bench to come on, but he did not have his kit on under his tracksuit and took ten minutes to go and get it, put it on on the bench and then warm up.
The player has also been banned for insulting a referee on social media in 2015 as well as receiving a lengthy ban for his comments about Blanc and team-mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic among others.
Aurier has certainly had issues – he has also publicly courted Arsenal in the past on social media – and that is presumably why the price is relatively low at £23m and the more financially powerful clubs have not taken the gamble.
Pochettino has showed before that he will not accept rebellious characters in the changing room, with Emmanuel Adebayor and Younes Kaboul reportedly moved on for their influence among the squad. Does Aurier bring more of the same?
What message does it send to Kieran Trippier
Trippier had a great 2017. He weighed in with assists, edged Walker out as first choice right back in the big games (helped by Walker’s desire to leave) and then he earned his first England cap.
Pochettino made a big deal this summer about making it clear that Trippier was his number one right back now and how it was just reward for two years of plugging away patiently.
To parachute Aurier in, a player who would seriously question his dominance and would also question perhaps publicly why he was not first choice if Trippier were to prevail, could cause problems.
Everyone needs competition but it’s the timing that could cause issues. Saying that, it could work the other way of course and spur Trippier on to greater things.
It blocks one of their own in Walker-Peters
The 20-year-old right-back proved he could swim rather sink when he was thrown into the deep end of the Premier League at Newcastle United last week.
Trippier came back and reclaimed his place as was expected against Chelsea but then his young team-mate was handed a brand new contract on Wednesday to show his place in the club’s future.
Aurier’s arrival would harm Walker-Peters’ short-term chances. He would have hoped to have played in the cup matches this season and perhaps rotate in the league towards the end of the season.
If he becomes third choice in the pecking order then he will either have to either rely on his versatility to get a game at left-back depending on the situation there. Otherwise, like Josh Onomah, he may become another who breaks the Pochettino mould as a talented player that simply has to get some time out on loan to prevent his progress stagnating.
If Aurier comes and the gamble pays off, Spurs will have one hell of a player. If it backfires and he soon gets disgruntled behind the scenes and publicly then the tight-knit squad and great atmosphere that the Argentine has carefully created in the last three years could be dismantled.
The words of Laurent Blanc in the wake of Aurier’s infamous Persicope outburst may be worth heeding.
“How did I react? Very badly. Very badly,” he said told the media. “Because we think whatever we like – this is a democracy and we are free to think about things, have our opinions – but that boy…
“Two years ago, I committed myself to bring him to Paris, so to see what I saw yesterday … that’s the thanks I get? It’s pitiful.”
Pochettino certainly has one hell of a decision ahead of him.