For most us, the 2014 World Cup finals have presented an opportunity to catch a first glimpse of Ivory Coast right-back Serge Aurier. Was all the hype about the Toulouse starlet justified? Why have Arsenal been so keen to strike a deal for this 21-year-old defender?
The World Cup die-hards who stayed up into the early hours of last Sunday morning witnessed a very encouraging display from the youngster. Although he still looks a little on the raw side, he was still confident, quick, powerful and produced two blinding assists in the space of several second-half minutes to help Ivory Coast come back from 1-0 down to beat Japan in Recife.
The qualify of his crossing, in particular, caught the eye. And that he produced two in three minutes to set up two goals showed the first was by no means a fluke.
Should Man United and Chelsea pounce?
As far as we know, Arsenal are the only big Premier League club interested in signing the £7.5 million-rated full-back this summer. But why Manchester United and Chelsea aren’t sniffing around the Toulouse ace is mystifying.
Perhaps Chelsea will if Jose Mourinho decides to cash in on Branislav Ivanovic, who is wanted by Arsenal. But Cesar Azpilicueta looks set to become the Blues’ new first-choice right-back once left-back Filipe Luis arrives from Atletico Madrid.
So, what about United? Is Rafael developing in the manner those at Old Trafford expected he would when he came to Old Trafford alongside his twin brother, Fabio, in 2008? He’s a little hot-headed and can get caught out of position, while his lack of strength is also a concern.
Aurier is faster and stronger than the Brazilian. Admittedly he needs to work on the defensive side of his game, but he has plenty of time to hone them skills - and where better to continue learning his trade than at Old Trafford?
There’s room for Rafael and Aurier to be at the club at the same time, in fact. When Rafael is sidelined through either injury or suspension, United are forced to rely on their makeshift right-backs Chris Smalling and Phil Jones - two centre-backs who often fail to convince when deployed on the flanks.
Aurier, you suspect, would quickly become Manchester United’s first-choice right-back - and stay there for a good few years. Louis van Gaal would be more than happy if he starts the season with Aurier and Luke Shaw as his two full-backs, as would the club’s supporters.
£7.5m for Aurier is a bargain
If Aurier was English, you can guarantee his price-tag would be considerably higher than £7.5 million. Put a two in front of the seven and you’d be a lot closer. Shaw, for example, is likely to cost the Red Devils as much as £30 million - not to mention the massive £100,000-a-week wages.
Purchasing players off the back of an impressive World Cup is risky business - but Aurier has flourished in Ligue 1 over the past season, scoring six goals in 34 appearances and establishing his reputation as one of the best full-backs in France in the process.
There’s a reason why Wenger is so keen to make him one of his first signings this summer - but Chelsea and, in particular, Manchester United can not afford to let this gifted full-back sign for the Gunners without putting up a fight.
United, Chelsea and Arsenal fans - watch what all the fuss is about in this handy video.