After a stellar 2016/17 season with Nice, helping the Cote D’Azur club finish third in Ligue 1, Jean Michael Seri looked almost certain to join Barcelona last summer.
Praised by Camp Nou legend Xavi and reported to be available for around£35million, all signs pointed to the Catalan giants swooping to sign the Ivory Coast midfielder.
But no such move materialised and, despite Premier League links, Seri stayed with Nice and is again impressing in the French top flight this term.
This summer he will almost certainly be the subject of serious interest from major clubs once again, with Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool all thought to be weighing up bids for the 26-year-old.
With that in mind, our friends at Football Whispers have profiled the Ivory Coast playmaker to see what he’d add to the Premier League sides chasing his signature.
Who is Jean Michael Seri?
Nice signed Seri from Portuguese side Pacos de Ferreira in June 2015, picking the then 23-year-old playmaker up for just â‚¬1million.
Seri impressed in Portugal, first with Porto’s B team, having joined on loan from Ivorian outfit ASEC Mimosas, and then with Pacos for two seasons following a permanent switch from his home nation in 2013.
Initially signed to fulfill a defensive midfield remit, it gradually became apparent Seri’s technical and creative skills warranted a more advanced role in the Nice midfield, operating with the freedom to drift between penalty areas, controlling play and conjuring chances with his vision and incisive passing.
Last season, as part of a vibrant and progressive Nice side under manager Lucien Favre, Seri demonstrated his effectiveness in the final third by contributing seven goals and nine assists in Ligue 1. His attacking output has diminished this term, however, with just one goal and four assists to his name to date.
A 16-cap Ivory Coast international, Seri, at 26, is approaching his peak years, and therefore would represent an astute pick-up for any top club.
What are Seri’s strengths?
With his outstanding touch, sharp vision, creativity and ability to break up play through timely tackles and interceptions, Seri is the complete midfield package.
The most strikingly impressive aspect of Seri’s game is his ability to bring the ball under control instantly, even when receiving it at an awkward height or angle. He immediately places the ball into a position away from the attention of his marker and in the optimum spot to progress up the pitch.
Despite his slight stature, standing just 5ft 6ins, the Ivorian is remarkably strong and an excellent short-distance dribbler, meaning his is able to receive the ball under pressure and play through an opposition’s press.
What are Seri’s weaknesses?
While his height is no concern when the ball is on the ground, Seri is never likely to be an imposing presence aerially. Being a proficient header of the ball is not a requirement of his role, however, and his shortness should therefore not deter potential suitors.
Slightly more concerning in respect of Premier League interest, though, is the fact that Seri suffers from chilblains, an affliction which causes painful and itchy swelling of the skin in cold weather.
This brings into question his ability to thrive in the British climate, although parts of northern France experience similar weather patterns and temperatures to England, and Seri doesn’t appear to have struggled physically in Ligue 1.
How much will Seri cost?
It was claimed that Seri’s Nice contract contained a â‚¬40million (Â£35million) release clause which expired last summer amid links to Barcelona.
However, release clauses are prohibited in France, strictly outlawed by the LFP (French football’s governing body).
Any club looking to prise Seri away from the Allianz Riviera at the end of the 2017/18 campaign will likely have to stump up a figure in the region of£40-50million â€“ although the amount of interest in the player could lead to a bidding war, increasing his value yet further.
What is Seri’s most likely destination?
Barcelona chose to focus on signing Paulinho instead of Seri last summer, but Andres Iniesta, now 33, has been linked with a move away from the Camp Nou so it would be no surprise to see the La Liga leaders return for the Ivory Coast star.
Additionally, Paris Saint-Germain, who met with Seri’s representatives last year, are known to be in the market for central midfield reinforcements. If top target Fabinho can’t be secured, they too could launch a bid for the Nice man.
However, if media reports are anything to go by, it appears interest from the Premier League, in particular from the Manchester clubs, is strongest.
By Ryan Bali – follow him and the Football Whispers team on Twitter @FB_Whispers