At the beginning of the year, Serge Aurier’s Paris Saint-Germain career seemed to be crashing to an ugly and premature end.
The Ivory Coast right-back attained internet infamy when he streamed a Periscope session with a friend during which he lewdly insulted head coach Laurent Blanc, as well as team-mates Zlatan Ibrahimovic, now of course of Manchester United, and Angel Di Maria.
He was consigned to train with the reserves for the best part of a month, and had it not been for Blanc’s exit in Paris during the summer, it may well have been the 23-year-old who was no longer under the employ of the Ligue 1 champions.
Trouble, though, seems to follow Aurier around. In the last month he has been handed a two-month prison sentence for elbowing a French police officer outside a nightclub in the early hours of the morning, though he will not need to serve that unless he commits another misdemeanour. Indeed, he is appealing the original ruling.
Most recently, the defender has come under scrutiny from FIFA due to his celebration during a World Cup qualifying match. After his cross was turned into his own goal by Salif Coulibaly to give Ivory Coast a 2-1 edge over Mali, Aurier celebrated with an ill-judged slit throat gesture.
But he had earlier shown the great dichotomy in his character during that fixture, proving that he is not the villain sometimes portrayed in the media. As Moussa Doumbia suffered an epileptic fit on the field, Aurier was one of the first to rush to the aid of his opponent, preventing the midfielder from swallowing his tongue.
“He was dying,” Mali boss Alain Giresse told RMC. “It was an incredible reaction from Aurier. I spoke to him afterwards and I even thanked him for his cool head.”
“There is one thing nobody is talking about, which is the manner in which he helped a Malian on the pitch,” Mali national team coordinator Fousseni Diawara told Goal.
"Doumbia fell and was swallowing his own tongue and Serge was one of the first to arrive and help.
"On Sunday, Aurier was at our hotel to ask after our guy.
“On Monday, we flew back to Paris together and we did not talk about his celebration. Indeed, he was praising our team.”
Concern has been voiced over the negative actions of the player by those who know him, with former PSG midfielder Clement Chantome, now on the books of Bordeaux, admitting the he is “disturbed” by his former colleague’s behaviour.
“He is a really nice guy,” the midfielder told L’Equipe. “Tell him to stop? He’s already been told. He’s a very nice guy and he’s not stupid. But then he’s young, too...”
Chantome is currently sidelined and took in PSG’s 2-0 win over Bordeaux prior to the international break with the suspended Aurier, which proved an eye-opening experience.
“We watched the match together and I asked him: 'Why are you doing this?' He does not know why, that is what is most disturbing.”
Perhaps it is naivety that has led Aurier down this path, although at nearly 24, he should be starting to outgrow such foolishness, yet Diawara is insistent that too much is being made of the player’s mistakes.
“Serge has to realise what he’s not done right,” Diawara conceded. “But footballers attract jealousy.
“He’s still young, he’s made silly mistakes and he’s apologised for them. We have to stop adding to the controversies. The press is being delirious and I think the journalists are wrong.
“Today it’s Serge Aurier, yesterday it was Karim Benzema, tomorrow it will be someone else.”
Aurier’s best answer to his critics will be to disappear from the front pages of the newspapers by not putting himself in such situations.
His misdemeanours are currently masking his talents. His life-saving actions on the field have been undermined by his slit throat gesture, while the very fact that he is one of only six players nominated for the African Ballon d’Or has been forgotten entirely.