Here we look at young players in French football who we believe have the potential to become the next big thing. Toulouse’s 21 year old full-back Serge Aurier is a player that we believe can be the very best. Here we look at his past, present and potential future in serious detail:
Serge Aurier was born in the Ivory Coast, but at a very tender age, his family took the big trip to France, striving for a better life in Paris. Aurier’s love of football was clear for all to see and after playing in small youth set ups and academies for many years, he was offered the opportunity to join the widely-respected Villepinte at the age of 14 in 2006. Here many scouts from Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 come to watch players and soon he was spotted by the then Ligue 1 side Lens, who offered him a youth contract later that year in 2006. Aurier of course accepted and his road to stardom begun.
Aurier remained unfazed at the prospect of having to leave his family and friends to go to Lens barely a teenager at the age of 13. The fact that Aurier made this transition so aptly showed his drive and determination to do what he loved. The trip was certainly worth it and Aurier made a lasting impression. Between 2006 and 2009, he worked his way upwards through the teams at Lens until becoming the became captain of their reserves. Aurier was keen to learn and often spent longer perfecting his technique before and after training sessions.
In January 2009, Aurier was handed his first professional contract with Lens at the age of 16 and made his debut a few weeks later in a Coupe de France match against Lorient where his pace and confidence was very pleasing to the eye. During the rest of that season he was used sparingly, but when he did play, he was the subject of great praise. His ability to bomb up and down the flank in particular excited supporters, showing them what he was truly capable of. Over the next two seasons he clocked up more minutes, and his fame increased.
In 2011, Lens were relegated from Ligue 1 to Ligue 2, but Aurier was seen as the stand out performer for the side’s campaign. Both Fulham and Sunderland enquired about the player, but at the age of just 18, the Ivorian was advised to stay with Lens for another season at least. Aurier took these words on board and in fact stayed at the club for another one and a half years where he gained vital experience of playing week in week out in Ligue 2.
- Aurier playing for Lens
In January 2012, Toulouse, who currently have a reputation for developing young talent into world class players, Moussa Sissoko and Etienne Capoue to name a couple, snapped the player up for a fee of 1.5 million euros (about 1.3 million British pounds). Aurier, amid much competition, cemented his place in his new side. One reason for this was perhaps his adaptability. The player can play left or right back, although he prefers the right side due to the fact this his stronger foot; but has also been know to play as a winger or centre back. His style has become typical of that of modern day full backs in which he is incredibly reliant on his ability to help out the attack. Aurier has since talked about the way he has adapted his game
“When I was at Lens, I didn’t really get forward but Toulouse’s style gives me that opportunity to attack because when I venture forward I know that two or three of my teammates will cover me.”
He is a very good crosser of the ball and loves overlapping down the flanks. He has also worked on his aerial presence in the opposition box and is starting to become a threat from set pieces, scoring a very impressive six goals this season. This, coupled with his equally impressive 6 assist, highlights just how much his attacking game has developed over the last year with Toulouse. He scored more goals than any other defender in the 2013/14 season, and made the second most assists after Henri Bedimo. Clearly, Aurier is already outstanding going forwards.
His playing style would suit clubs such as Manchester United or Arsenal, but he must adapt his game a little to make it at a top club. While he is rarely beaten 1 on 1, his attacking adventures often leave his flank exposed when his team lose the ball. He must find the correct balance between attacking and defending – and that balance will likely feature more of a defensive aspect if he is to make a move abroad to a big European club. Having said that, at just 21 years of age, he has plenty of time in his career to adapt his game.
Last year, Aurier said he was not yet ready to play for his national team, Ivory Coast:
“I’ve been approached several times by the Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi. He has called me numerous times. We had a chat and I told him that I’m not yet ready to play international football.“
However, such has been his development over the past year, he decided it was time to make his international debut in June of 2013, and since then he has made 7 international appearances. He has been included in the Ivory Coast squad for the World Cup in Brazil, and is sure to play an important part for ‘The Elephants’ in the summer. It is a proof of his progression that he has been given such responsibility for his country, and that he is sought after by top clubs around Europe.
- [Via footmercato.net]
At 21, the reality is that he still has time to grow and develop. Aurier has a great footballing brain and if he works on the few negative areas of the game, he could become a top player in the future. He is naturally gifted going forwards, and once he finds the correct balance in his game, he could be a really special talent.