By Jean-Charles Danree
Serge Aurier has spoken of his delight after being named in the 2014 Goal 50 and has cited Germany's World Cup-winning captain Philipp Lahm as his inspiration.
The 21-year-old full-back enjoyed a breakthrough campaign at Toulouse, earning himself a summer transfer to Paris Saint-Germain and 44th place in Goal's annual list of the 50 greatest players of the past season.
"It is a pleasure to be on the list with all these great players, who have all had a great season," Aurier told Goal.
"I am very proud, it is encouraging for me for the future.
"It was an accomplished season, with ups and downs - but more ups than downs. I had good team-mates and a coach [Alain Casanova] who trusted me when I first arrived. The coach gave me confidence and he put a lot of responsibility on me this year. This allowed me to express myself fully."
Aurier has revealed that Bayern Munich and Germany captain Lahm is the one player he looks up to in the game.
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"With his size he doesn't seem that impressive, but he is very intelligent. He always make the right choice, he rarely loses the ball. He does the right thing at the right time. He's the player who has inspired me the most."
Although Aurier's crossing ability was an attribute that earned him widespread acclaim during the World Cup as he set up two goals for Cote d'Ivoire against Japan, he insists defending remains his key focus.
"Crossing is something I worked on. I only moved to the right back position four years ago," Aurier confessed.
"I was a midfielder, so I didn't find myself on the wing that often. I sometimes stayed after training to work on my crossing. I worked on it almost every week with the assistant manager. It paid off.
"Every quality is important. Today, full backs are more offensive and can win games, but for me the most important thing for a modern full back is that they defend well and work hard. Only after that does participating offensively and making the right passes count.
"Everyone talks about my attacking because I score goals and make assists, but I'm still a defender. I feel more comfortable in a four-man backline because I can make use of my defensive qualities more. With the 3-5-2 at Toulouse, my offensive skills were visible which is also good for me but defending is the most important."
Aurier scored six goals and registered six assists for Toulouse in 2013-14 and is being tipped for big things at PSG next term, but the Ivorian believes he still must improve many areas of his game.
"I am only at the beginning of my career, so I cannot say that I am complete," he said humbly.
"I must improve my aggressiveness and composure to give the right pass to my team-mates.
"But I have a very good foundation. I know where I want to go and from that I can only develop my game together with coaches and people who want the best for me."
Aurier impressed at the World Cup, but Cote d'Ivoire were eliminated in the first round - something that disappointed the youngster.
"There were a lot of regrets because we could have done better with the team we had," he said.
"But this setback can make us grow for the future. We made mistakes but we were also unlucky to concede a penalty in the last minute of the final group game [against Greece]. We must learn from what happened and move forward.
"Personally I was satisfied, but I wanted to do better with my team."
Aurier concluded by tipping the country of his residence, France, to have a great European Championship in 2016.
"France impressed me at the World Cup," he said.
"I thought they would make it to the final after the game against Nigeria but they lost on a free kick against Germany. They had opportunities to score, but Manuel Neuer is a good goalkeeper. The future looks bright for them. I'm looking forward to watching them at the Euros in France."
Click HERE to see the full list for the 2014 Goal 50
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