Did Seri cut himself short by joining Premier League strugglers, Fulham?

You know someone is a big a deal when the likes of Barcelona, Chelsea and Arsenal are repeatedly reported to be casting in their bids in hope of landing the player’s signature. Such was the predicament of Jean Michel Seri, who was once upon a time tipped to be “Xavi’s replacement” at Barcelona, or fill the shoes of Santi Cazorla at Arsenal. The Ivorian international was honestly spoiled for choice and a choice he did make, but an unpopular one.

...But the dynamic Seri we were used to, the one who ran at players, created something out of nothing and meandered through the midfield players like the first rain on desert rocks, may slowly be reaching extinction.
— Dennis Takaendesa, FirstTouch Africa

In the summer of 2018, Fulham FC who had just been promoted to the English top flight announced the signing of the box to box midfielder for a record club fee believed to be in the region of £25 million. The ingenious midfielder whom we came to know as Jean Michel Seri had already made a name for himself, growing up in the streets of Abidjan, Ivory Coast. They all nicknamed him, “Galla” after Marcelo Gallardo, the former Monaco and PSG midfielder he looked up to. What really made him a real prospect were the OGC Nice years. Playing with the likes of Mario Balotelli upfront, Seri lighted up the French Ligue 1. Over three years, he recorded a remarkable 21 assists and scored 12 goals from a deep-lying midfield position, not an attacking one. During that time when Naby Keita was running the show at RB Leipzig, Seri was doing the same if not better at Nice. He won the Marc Vivien Foe Award for the best African Player in the Ligue 1 for the year 2017, became the 2017 OGC Nice Player of the Year and was included in the UNFP Ligue 1 Team of the Year in that remarkable 2017 for the Ivorian. He looked ready and sure first XI player for any of Europe’s big clubs but chose the promoted Fulham instead. Speaking to the media on the strange move, Seri highlighted that Fulham were the most serious side in their pursuit for his signature henceforth settling for the Craven Cottagers. His move was largely labelled as a “steal” for Fulham by many of the top football analysts, players and media houses. In other terms, he really seemed too good for the Whites.

Andre Schurrle and Jean Michael Seri of Fulham during the Premier League match between Fulham FC and Arsenal FC at Craven Cottage on October 7, 2018 in London, United Kingdom.  (Oct. 6, 2018 - Source: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images Europe)

Andre Schurrle and Jean Michael Seri of Fulham during the Premier League match between Fulham FC and Arsenal FC at Craven Cottage on October 7, 2018 in London, United Kingdom.

(Oct. 6, 2018 - Source: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images Europe)

And now, Fulham is one of the sides fighting a tough relegation battle, currently seated at the second bottom position on the Premier League standings. The 27-year-old Seri has only managed a solitary goal and 2 assists in 19 premier league matches. Most of his playing time at the club is now devoted to stopping opponents’ fires instead of creating one for the opposition. He has had to learn to sit back and defend more at Fulham than at any point of his career. Of course he has had one or two special moments that include winning the Premier League Goal of the Month for August 2018, but the dynamic Seri we were used to, the one who ran at players, created something out of nothing and meandered through the midfield players like the first rain on desert rocks, may slowly be reaching extinction. Even at the prime age of his career where according to many, he should be winning all the major trophies and building a concrete legacy like those of compatriots such as Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure.

This leaves one to question on whether or not Seri short-changed himself by signing for a relegation threatened side when he had the choice of playing UEFA Champions League football. However, career choices usually implicate more than the perceived and it’s up to the owner of the career anywhere.

One fact still stands, whether he has the chance to manifest it or not, Seri remains one special footballer, a joy to behold when he finds himself in his element.