We at Cartilage Free Captain do transfer rumors often, and we do them well. But sometimes it’s worth doing a deeper dive into Tottenham Hotspur’s transfer targets, so we’re bringing back a series from a couple of years ago — Daniel Levy’s Imaginary Shortlist. These are players that Spurs have either been linked to in the transfer window, or sometimes who they should be linked to as the club tries to improve to challenge for a Premier League title.
Up next: OGC Nice midfielder Jean Michael Seri
Name: Jean Michael Seri
Team: OGC Nice
League: Ligue 1
Primary position: Central Midfield
Can also play: Attacking Midfield
Jean Michael Seri was phenomenal for OGC Nice in a breakout campaign for the surprise side of the Ligue 1 season. The twenty-six year old Ivorian midfielder was selected to the UNFP Ligue 1 2016-17 Team of the Season, along with the likes of Kylian Mbappé, Thiago Silva, Benjamin Mendy, Marco Veratti, Edison Cavani, Alexandre Lancazette, and Bernardo Silva — not bad company.
Since transferring to Nice in 2015, Seri has featured for the Cote D’Azur outfit seventy-two times. Last season, he started thirty-four games in Ligue 1, scoring seven goals, notching nine assists, and accumulating four yellow cards, while never being sent off. The midfielder debuted for Cote D’Ivoire in 2015 and has since appeared for the African powerhouse fourteen times, scoring one goal.
Tottenham Hotspur have been heavily linked to another Nice standout, right-back Ricardo Perreira, but its doubtless that Jean Seri played a larger role in their squad’s success this past season. Seri featured in the center of the park for Les Aiglons and pretty much pulled the strings for the overachievers. Seri does four things particularly well in midfield and those are the precision in his passing, his ability to make a spectacular touch or through ball that unlocks a defense, his neat dribbling which can beat the opposition, and long range bombs which he is adept at.
A diminutive midfielder, Seri is just 5’5, yet his quickness and low center of gravity play to his strengths. Everything he does is tidy and quick. He doesn’t just recycle possession, but keeps the ball flowing and the point of attack moving. He isn’t going to muscle people in the center of the park like Mousa Dembélé, and his individual dribbling ability isn’t that of our Belgian (who is though?), but he can still beat a man and, more importantly, is speedy to combine with others and beat defenders that way. One aspect where he is a clear upgrade for Tottenham Hotspur would be delayed driving runs to the box. The dude can strike a football and has a penchant for spectacular efforts outside the eighteen. Thinking of him and Christian Eriksen playing through the middle and it would be a nightmare for defenses in terms of constantly having to close those two down far from net.
Seri can play multiple positions in midfield. In a pinch he could play as a number ten in an attacking band, but his real strengths lie somewhere between a box to box midfielder and a deep lying playmaker. He’d be ideal as the attacking half of a pivot and maybe even better as the runner in a midfield three. Yet Nice have already lost four players this summer and some big clubs are sniffing around. Roma, Arsenal, and Barcelona have all been linked and while Roma is probably the favorite to sign the Ivorian, there is a combination of competition from others and a reluctance to sell from Nice’s vantage point that make Seri a difficult target for Spurs.
Likely price: €40 Million (£35.75)
Chances that the valuation is wrong: The €40 million is Seri’s rumored release clause, but that figure isn’t substantiated by firm, credible sources. Either way there is a strong likelihood that the Ivorian would see Spurs’ break their transfer fee record if they signed him.
Team’s willingness to sell: The only thing that is certain is that Nice have done some business and lost players already this summer including Ricardo Perreira, Younes Belhanda, and Paul Bayasse. Seri was hugely important to their side and with Champions League football being offered (they face Ajax in a two-leg playoff on July 26th), Nice have real reason to hold onto their midfield dynamo. While Arsenal, Spurs, and Barca have been linked, it seems that Roma have been a bit more serious in their pursuit of Seri, but balked at that €40 million price tag and backed off. In other words, its not impossible to sign Seri, but be prepared to pay up.
Fit at Tottenham Hotspur: Its hard to see Seri eclipsing Mousa Dembélé in the side, but he’d be a clear upgrade over Harry Winks and Josh Onomah. Further, Moose is injury prone and getting older. Either filling in for the inevitable ten to fifteen matches that Moose won’t be available for or just spelling him to help avoid injury would be a nice option to have.
Seri’s signing would be bad news for Harry Winks and terrible news for Josh Onomah. He’d eat up a ton of opportunities for Winksy and virtually shut out Onomah from the first team. On the other hand, he’d bring real quality to a position that we lack depth in and would bring a different style of play to the position than Mousa Dembélé. In fact, Seri probably plays more similarly to Winks than Moose himself. Seri also would be perfect for formation flexibility as a fantastic option in a 4-3-3.
Possibility he ends up at Spurs: Moose is getting older and Spurs do need to find a long term replacement for him. I think that Poch and Levy might feel that they already have those replacements in in Josh Onomah and Harry Winks right now. Spurs are playing with fire with Moose’s age and injury history, but our silky Belgian isn’t over the hill just yet, and if he stays on the pitch, Moose certainly has another year of top class football in him. This allows the club more time to assess their youngsters without dropping £30-£40 million on a twenty-six year old. And it is those two factors, which probably ice Spurs out of this transfer. Seri isn’t an automatic top player for Spurs, nor an automatic starter. For these reasons, its hard to see them paying that much money for a player who will have little sell-on value in the future. That said, if Spurs were Manchester City and could basically buy anybody, Jean Michael Seri would be great fit.
Grade if this transfer goes through: B-