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African Xavi: What does Jean-Michael Seri bring to Fulham?

Monday 16th July 2018

With fans anxious over transfer inactivity, Fulham scouts embarked on an odd trip to France. The Cottagers toured around Paris but preferred the beaches on the coast, ultimately settling in Nice. On their return, two of the Riviera’s most-valuable assets came long.  

Maxime Le Marchand was one. The other was Jean-Michael Seri. The latter's club-record deal seems the real coup. His capture could be compared to Jean Tigana luring Edwin van der Sar to Fulham from Juventus in 2001. That signing really announced the newly-promoted side.

In the past 12 months, Seri has been linked with several top sides, most notably, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Chelsea. Barca allegedly agreed on a deal with OGC Nice last summer before growing cold feet at the last minute. 

The rave about Seri wasn’t born from mere media hype, though. The midfielder grew in stature over the years. His influence helped the Cote d’Azur club to respectable Ligue 1 finishes in the last three seasons. In 2016/17 he scored seven goals and created nine assists. Xavi is a big fan.

He is fantastic. He has what they call the Barca DNA. No doubt.

Paying dues

Seri played his youth football at the ASEC Mimosas academy in Cote d'Ivoire, learning his trade with the Ivorian heavyweights before joining Porto on loan in 2012. It is the breakthrough hoped for by every African footballer but the midfielder’s time at Estádio do Dragio was an utter disaster. Forced to train with reserves, Seri didn't get a look. 

In the end, the Dragons passed up the opportunity for his signature. Fellow Liga Nos side Pacos de Ferreira stepped in. With his intelligent play, technical quality and fine passing range, Seri became an instant hit. It was clear he was destined for greater things. Two years later, the 26-year-old was on the move again to Nice. 

What will he bring to Fulham? 

A 'jack of all trades' who offers cover in defence and an outlet for the attack, Seri is best as a deep-lying midfielder. With his array of passes, he dictates tempo. He racked up the most accurate passes (2,328) in Ligue 1 last season, posting a 90% success rate.  

For Seri, it's all about creating chances. According to Whoscored, his 37 attempted through balls was seventh-best in France’s top tier. Take away Paris Saint-Germain players, he moves up to third behind Dimitri Payet (63) and Florian Thauvin (59), two players traditionally deployed higher up the pitch.

He’s not the strongest nor tallest but harries opponents into mistakes. The Ivorian uses his low centre of gravity to advantage. In 16/17, he completed 89% of his attempted take-ons and won 63.89% of tackles.

How will he fit? 

With its possession-based attacking style, Seri is perfect for the Cottagers. No side in the Championship displayed as much composure on the ball as Slavisa Jokanovic’s team. The  Lodnoners played with confidence, unafraid to take the game to the opposition. Jokanovic played three across the middle of the park; Tom Cairney, Stefan Johansen and Kevin McDonald. With the Ivorian in town, one could lose his place. 

With Seri and Ryan Sessegnon, Craven Cottage faithful should be entertained this season.

Toby Prince

If the sport has 11-men on each side, a ball and lasts for 90 minutes then I'll write about it. Simply put, I'm an unrepentant soccer freak that other freaks will, however, call a geek. I do find time for music when not watching the beautiful game, though and have been known to produce the odd track. 

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