Daniel Levy must cast a regular eye over Tottenham’s balance sheet. When he looks at the books for the last few months, one figure stands out: £50million for the sale of Kyle Walker to Manchester City.
For all the mud that has been slung at the Spurs chairman for a perceived lack of ambition and downright stinginess, he has been admirably shrewd in a market that has plunged to new levels of ridiculousness. It is almost inevitable that they will spend some money in the next fortnight, and it’s to be expected that a fair portion of it will be on replacing Walker.
In the short-term, the weekend’s 2-0 win over Newcastle seemed to solve an immediate problem. Kyle Walker-Peters – man of the match on his debut – looks ready to make the step up to the Premier League. Kieran Trippier will soon return from injury. Problem solved?
Mauricio Pochettino seems highly unlikely to throw Walker-Peters in at the deep end just yet, however mature his performance at St James’ Park was. Hence, amidst the numerous right-backs the club are being linked with, the name Serge Aurier has cropped up – the Ivory Coast international who, according to French publication L’Equipe, has agreed terms with Tottenham, Juventus, and Inter Milan.
Reports that Aurier’s future is close to being sorted may be premature, as he was allegedly on the brink of joining Manchester United a fortnight ago. What is reasonably clear is that he is on his way out of Paris Saint-Germain, the two parties having made the decision that he would leave before their tour of the US earlier this summer.
Tactically, the 24-year-old would be a good fit. Aurier played as a midfielder at youth level and can operate as a wing-back or a more conventional right-back. Pochettino’s full-backs are supposed to offer width, pace, and hopefully a sprinkling of defensive nous. He fits that bill.
Unai Emery, meanwhile, has often preferred Thomas Meunier in his position, allowing Aurier to demonstrate his versatility at centre-back and left-back. This would be a signing that could solve several of Spurs’ problems regarding lack of depth all at once.
The full-back’s spell at the Parc des Princes has not been an entirely happy one, hence his willingness to move on. It’s here that doubts begin to rise about his suitability for Tottenham, however, as his bad-boy reputation is never far behind him.
A conviction for assaulting a police officer last year means he is technically barred from entering the UK, a ban which was enforced when PSG played Arsenal in the Champions League. Spurs would need to speak to the British government to have it lifted. Within the game, he has courted controversy too for his homophobic and insulting comments about his former manager, Laurent Blanc, and his understandable liking for Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Blanc was not necessarily a manager for difficult personalities. If a deal goes ahead, only time will tell if Pochettino is the man to cultivate in Aurier the kind of maturity and professionalism he expects from his players. The Argentine’s approach so far has been to discard troublesome characters. Andros Townsend felt the brunt of his wrath after a falling out, but crucially, he didn’t consider him good enough to make the cut anyway. Aurier may be different in that respect.
Aside from his previous conduct, it’s hard to envisage how the former Toulouse star would fit onto the wage bill. If Levy is to alter his strict pay structure, this would not be the place to start. Put simply, bring Aurier in, and be forced to increase the salaries of the countless internationals already at the club.
Despite the tabloid reports of the past week, Tottenham players certainly don’t appear to be in open revolt over the money they’re on, with the obvious exception of Danny Rose. It’s more a slight bone of contention.
Aurier is a signing that would divide opinion. Beating Juventus and Inter Milan to any player would prove an enormous coup, were there not so many problems associated with it.