Fulham pulled off one of the coups of the transfer window when they signed playmaker Jean Michael Seri from OGC Nice on Thursday.
The midfielder joins the Cottagers on a four-year deal, having signed for a fee of £25 million.
In this feature, Goal run the rule over the Premier League’s latest African All-Star.
Name: Jean Michael Seri
Signed for: Fulham
Moving from: OGC Nice
Fee: £25 million
Contract length: Four years, with the option to extend.
Position: Central midfield
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Seri has long been linked with a move away from OGC Nice, having played an influential role during the 2016-17 campaign as Les Aiglons qualified for the Champions League playoffs.
He’s been tipped for a move to Chelsea and Arsenal in the past, and was close to a switch to Barcelona last summer, only for Nice to reportedly pull the plug on the deal.
The fact he was courted by the Catalan giants is testament to his quality.
The story so far
Seri is a product of the ASEC Mimosas academy, learning his trade with the Ivorian heavyweights before joining FC Porto on loan in 2012.
He wasn’t signed permanently for the Dragons, after featuring exclusively for their B team, but his form in Portugal caught the eye of Pacos de Ferreira, who recruited him on a permanent deal.
With his intelligent play, technical quality and fine range of passing, he became an instant hit, but it was clear he was destined for greater things.
Only at Nice during the 2016-17 season, did Seri demonstrate the kind of consistency, composure and creativity that set him apart as one of the finest African midfielders of his generation.
To date, Seri has 18 international appearances for the Elephants, having made his debut in September 2015 in a Nations Cup qualifier against Sierra Leone.
He gradually established himself in the side under Michael Dussuyer, but endured a disappointing campaign at the 2017 tournament as the reigning champions were eliminated in the opening round.
The Ivorians also missed out on 2018 World Cup qualification, although a midfield containing Seri, Franck Kessie and Jean-Philippe Gbamin among others should ensure that the Ivorians return to the pinnacle of the African game before too long.
What will he offer: Seri is a passmaster, who can dictate the tempo, retain possession and play killer balls to create chances for the forwards. He contributed nine assists during Nice’s fine season in 2016-17, although that number dropped to five last year as the team failed to build on their success.
Nonetheless last term he still averaged 2.1 chances created for his teammates, enjoyed a pass-accuracy of 90.4 percent, and averaged 86.3 passes per game. For context, only Paris Saint-Germain’s Marco Verratti managed more.
Will he be a success?
Even though Newcastle United recruited successfully from Ligue 1, Aston Villa’s recent troubled experiences in buying from the French market exposed how difficult it can be to make the leap across the Channel.
Seri will find the going much tougher in England, where he’ll be denied space and time on the ball—Tiemoue Bakayoko at Chelsea has shown how an imperious midfielder in France can appear sluggish and hesitant in the Premier League.
His diminutive stature—he’s tiny at 168cm—ought to also be a concern, as he doesn’t offer too much defensively and risks being muscled off the ball.
However, if utilised in a midfield three, possibly as the deep-lying playmaker paired with a destroyer and a runner, he should be a success, but will Fulham see enough of the ball for Seri to exert his quality consistently?
The jury’s out on whether this move—rather than a switch to Italy or Spain—will get the best out of the West African.