In one of the bargains of the Summer transfer window, Tottenham Hotspur signed Ivorian international and former Paris Saint-Germain right-back Serge Aurier.
The transfer fee was 23 million pounds, less than half the fee they sold Kyle Walker to Manchester City for.
Aurier had a successful career in France, especially at PSG. He amassed over 11 trophies during his time at the Parc des Princes, winning the league twice in the process.
While his trophy case is well-stocked, the Ivorian was a mercurial talent individually in Ligue 1. No other defender in France’s top league had more assists than him since 2013/14 with 19, and won 309 tackles since 2012/13. Only Sebastian Corchia won more tackles than him.
With his dynamism, it was a no brainer why Spurs went after him; he’s an athletic right-back with loads of pace and offensive skill going forward. He is also a defensive stalwart, the epitome of the modern-day full-back.
With his skill set, why weren’t more top clubs trying to seek his signature? Plus, why was his price tag so low in today’s market?
Despite his skill, his off the field issues are the reasons why.
In February 2016, Aurier was accused of aiming homophobic slurs towards former PSG manager Laurent Blanc and forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
If that wasn’t enough to put teams off, later that year, he was given a two month prison sentence for elbowing a police officer outside of a French nightclub.
As a result, he was in and out of the starting-XI during the 2016/17 campaign with manager Unai Emery preferring Belgian right-back Thomas Meunier.
To make matters worse, PSG signed Dani Alves on a free transfer from Italian champions Juventus.
With dropping in the pecking order, it was time Aurier made a change to find playing time.
With Spurs selling Kyle Walker to Man City for 50 million pounds, the search for a new right-back was on.
At the beginning of the transfer window, Spurs made an approach for Porto right-back Ricardo Perriera after two successful seasons while on-loan at Nice. Unfortunately, a deal wasn’t agreed as both clubs couldn’t meet at the right valuation of the player.
This left Spurs a chance to go after Aurier.
The biggest obstacle for Spurs to acquire his signature was not the fee, but the criminal case that delayed his work permit and visa.
Many clubs avoided negotiations with PSG because they feared the verdict of his appeal would be decided after the transfer window closed (on top of his other off the field issues as well).
This didn’t stop Spurs from pursing his signature.
A day before the closing of the summer transfer window, Aurier won his appeal and his prison sentence was reduced to a fine and was granted his visa and work permit.
While his skills on the pitch are well-renowned, Spurs fans knew of his off the field controversies.
The Proud Lilywhites Supporter’s Group released a statement regarding the signing of Aurier, stating that they are willing to forgive the Ivorian of his transgressions and urged him to engage in dialogue with the club’s LBGT fans.
At the end end of the day, no one is more remorseful of his actions than Aurier himself which he detailed in his first official statement after signing:
“This is a huge and exciting opportunity at a massive football club and I am determined to prove myself as a professional both on and off the pitch. This is a fresh start for me and I will do everything to make the Spurs fanbase, which is huge and diverse, proud of me. The fans are the most important people at any club and I am looking forward to showing them and everyone at Spurs the real Serge Aurier.”
In another formality, Mauricio Pochettino spoke with Aurier when he arrived at Hotspur Way on deadline day and is willing to give him a clean slate. Jokingly, Pochettino stated that any other instances of misbehaving from Aurier, he wouldn’t hesitate to “kill him” (followed by a head butt motion during his presser).
Pochettino seemed unconcerned by his past issues and is willing to trust him right from the start.
While he needs to win battles on the pitch, his biggest tasks is to win over the terraces of Wembley Stadium and the New White Hart Lane.
With a change of scenery and a fresh start, Serge Aurier has the opportunity to show not only Tottenham Hotspur, but the world that the off the field antics we saw during his time in France are dead and buried and that he’s willing to put his best foot forward to endear himself to the White Hart Lane faithful.
“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”- L.M. Montgomery