Seri to face former club five years after collapse of "dream" Barcelona move

1120     0
Jean Michael Seri will be up against some familiar faces when his Hull side takes on Fulham (Image: Joe Toth/REX/Shutterstock)
Jean Michael Seri will be up against some familiar faces when his Hull side takes on Fulham (Image: Joe Toth/REX/Shutterstock)

"Jean-Pierre, I don't understand".

Those were the words spoken by Nice's managing director to the club's president when Barcelona pulled out of a move for star midfielder Jean Michael Seri. The Ivorian international looked set to move to Camp Nou in a €40m deal in the summer of 2017, only for Ernesto Valverde's side to pull the plug.

Barca signed Paulinho for a similar sum that same window, and Seri stayed at Nice for another season before finally getting his big-money move, joining free-spending Fulham after the Cottagers' promotion to the Premier League. An up-and-down four years at Craven Cottage were full of frustration, though, and the midfielder - now 31 - has a chance to take stock of his career as he takes on the London side with new club Hull City in the third round of the FA Cup.

"On Wednesday morning, [managing director] Julien Fournier called me early, at 9, and said, 'Jean-Pierre, I don't understand," president Jean-Pierre Riviere told Canal+. "I just got a call from Barcelona, they told me they're stopping with Micka [Seri].

"In the afternoon, I got hold of [Barca president] Josep Bartomeu, a little embarrassed, who told me: 'Jean-Pierre, it's the first time that this has happened to us, but our technical staff have decided not to do Micka Seri. It's absolutely not a problem of money.'

Pep Guardiola went back on his word after blocking last-ditch Barcelona transfer rriqudiuriqkkinvPep Guardiola went back on his word after blocking last-ditch Barcelona transfer

"On the Thursday morning, it was confirmed definitively: they won't be going for Micka Seri.

"And it's then that things go off. I said to Barca, 'You have messed up one of my players,' because there was a contract ready. I put myself in the place of Micka: it's his dream to go to Barca, and overnight it's broken."

Did Seri ever recover from the Barcelona decision? Share your thoughts in the comments section

Seri to face former club five years after collapse of "dream" Barcelona moveJean Michael Seri scored a goal of the season contender in his first Fulham season (Getty Images)

The Barcelona links came after a pair of impressive seasons as Nice established themselves as big-hitters in Ligue 1. Signed from Portuguese club Pacos de Ferreira, Seri was part of a team which finished fourth under Claude Puel and then third under Lucien Favre after Puel left for Southampton.

Seri's form even impressed Xavi, Barcelona's current manager, who at the time was rounding off his playing career with Al-Sadd. "He watched some games and he says, ‘Oh, they say this guy is an African Xavi and I saw it and he has some similarities and he can play for Barcelona.’," Seri would tell The Times in 2018. "But because Xavi says this, it does not mean they are going to sign me.”

Results under Favre took Nice within two qualifying rounds of a spot in the Champions League group stages for the first time in their history. However, after squeaking past Ajax on away goals, Seri and his team-mates were unable to get past Napoli.

Around the same time, reports in Spain suggested social media demands were responsible for Seri being linked with Barca before they ultimately withdrew from talks. Whatever the reason, though, player and club failed to reach the same high standards over the course of the season.

European distractions may have played a part in the horror start under Favre, with three defeats from the opening four games. They even dropped into the relegation places after their low point, a 5-0 home defeat to Lyon in November, but recovered enough to finish eighth.

Seri to face former club five years after collapse of "dream" Barcelona moveSeri was linked with Barcelona during his spell at Nice (AFP/Getty Images)

While Barcelona's title win and big-money signing of Philippe Coutinho ensured they would not be reigniting their interest in Seri, other clubs were still keen. Ultimately it was Fulham, back in the Premier League after a four-year absence, who handed over a reported £25m as part of a huge summer spending spree.

"He's been at the very top of our target list for a long time.," chairman Tony Khan said of the deal, which saw Seri joined in west London by fellow Nice player Maxime Le Marchand. "This is a big day for Fulham. We're ecstatic that Jean-Michael [sic] is joining our squad as we return home to the Premier League."

Erling Haaland's agent details Man City exit plan and club she must say "yes" toErling Haaland's agent details Man City exit plan and club she must say "yes" to

Seri himself revealed the respect shown by Fulham convinced him to join the club despite reported interest from Tottenham and Chelsea. "Because Fulham gave me this respect, although other clubs wanted me, I wanted to sign for Fulham," he told The Times.

All in all, Fulham spent around £100m over the course of that one summer, with Aleksandar Mitrovic and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa among the other big signings. Two defeats from the opening two games showed the size of the task facing manager Slavisa Jokanovic, but their new midfielder got them up and running with a stunning early strike in a 4-2 victory over Burnley.

Sadly for Seri, that would be his only Fulham goal that season, with Jokanovic losing his job in the autumn and two further managers unable to keep the team in the top-flight. Loan stints at Galatasaray and Bordeaux followed, but he came back in from the cold under Marco Silva to help Fulham return to the top-flight and finally scored his second goal for the club almost four years after his first.

Seri to face former club five years after collapse of "dream" Barcelona moveThe midfielder helped Fulham return to the Premier League last season (Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Before moving to England, Seri had suggested a switch to a country with a cold climate was off the cards. “I have ingrown toenails and when it’s cold I need special treatment,” he told Le Point (via Goal ). “I don’t see myself playing in a country where it’s cold. I hurt everywhere and I struggle to train.”

It may have come as a surprise, then, to see him stay in the country after his Fulham contract expired. Stay he has, though, joining Hull City on a three-year deal over the summer and helping the Tigers climb the table after a tough start saw Shota Arveladze sacked as manager.

"I think we have the same sort of idea of how we see the game being played and that's shown," Seri's midfield partner Ryan Woods told Hull Live in October. "We balance off each other really well.

"To have the amount of quality; he's got a lot of international experience and I've got a lot of Championship experience so to have that amount of experience in the middle of the pitch always helps."

Seri to face former club five years after collapse of "dream" Barcelona moveNow at Hull, Seri will be reunited with his former club in the FA Cup (Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)

Speaking in October, Seri explained his decision to remain in England after his Fulham spell came to an end. "I could get out from England but I said to myself I have enough capacity and energy to stay in England, because I love this league," he told a press conference.

"Even the Championship, Premier League, is the kind of league where everyone has to want to be, because the intensity, the passion of the fans, this is why we love this work. It's not even when you are winning - we can see our fans behind us when we're losing three games in a row at home.

"It was difficult for them but they just trust us. That is the key and that's why we need to be here, that's the reason why I want to stay in England."

Hull are unbeaten since returning after the World Cup, drawing three and winning two under new boss Liam Rosenior. Fulham will be a different proposition, though, with former Hull manager Marco Silva helping the London side chase a top-half finish after last season's title win.

If anyone knows what to expect from Fulham, though, it's a man who went through plenty of ups and downs in his four years with the club. Now it's time for Seri to show he still has some of the quality which brought those Barcelona links all those years ago.

Tom Victor

Print page

Comments:

comments powered by Disqus
15.07.2024, 17:44 • Investigation