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Should Serge Aurier’s baggage impact Tottenham move?

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By Rob Dauster

Serge Aurier is everything that Tottenham needs in a right back.

He’s pacy. He’s strong. He’s attack-minded. He’s the prototype of what manager Mauricio Pochettino looks for in a fullback; Kyle Walker at half the price.

[ MORE: All the latest transfer news

Anyone that watched Kieran Trippier struggle to do anything against Chelsea early in the season is already well aware that kind of speed out wide is something Spurs are missing, potentially the difference between competing for the top four and competing for a title.

Serge Aurier also comes with a significant amount of baggage, not the least of which is an issue getting a visa and work permit to actually enter the UK.

He was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer outside a Paris nightclub. He received a two-month jail sentence and is currently appealing the ruling. In November, he was not allowed to enter the country for a Champions League group stage match against Arsenal.

But assuming he wins his appeal, and assuming the reports linking the want-away PSG defender with Tottenham — according to L’Equipe, terms have been agreed upon and Aurier has already undergone a medical — are true, then the bigger issue Spurs chairman Daniel Levy faces is the fact that he’ll be bringing in a player with a documented history of using homophobic language.

For those that are unaware, last spring, during a Q-and-A that Aurier did on the app Periscope, the Ivorian insulted a number of his teammates and called then manager Laurent Blanc “une fiotte,” which, in French, translates to “f—-t”.

After initially denying that it was him on the video, Aurier released a half-hearted apology, attempting to clear the air with his teammates and coaching staff:

“I made a big mistake, I am here to say sorry to the coach, the club and my team-mates, and to the supporters because they are the most important people,” he said. “I want to apologize especially to the coach, I can only thank him for all he has done for me since I arrived in Paris. He wanted me and since I came here everything has gone really well. I owe him a lot and that is why I apologize sincerely to him for what was said, which I deeply regret.”

“I will accept any sanction the club impose on me regarding this incident. I made a mistake, it was unforgivable and I am ready to face all the consequences.”

Nowhere in that statement does Aurier apologize for the use of homophobic language. Nowhere in there does he accept responsibility for the pain he caused LGBT PSG fans that had to hear him say those things. Nowhere does he acknowledge that using that word is wrong.

And therein lies the problem.

Every time a member of the LGBT community hears homophobic language like this, it triggers something in them. They hearken back to the days when it wasn’t okay to be gay. It reminds them of every time they were discriminated against for their sexual orientation. The mere presence of Serge Aurier on Tottenham’s roster will do this to LGBT Spurs supporters.

Think about it like this: How many times have you found yourself lying awake at night, replaying the most awkward, embarrassing and painful moments of your past over and over in your head?

Now imagine having that feeling every single time you watch your favorite soccer club play simply because they decided to sign a player that may actually be homophobic. Imagine being put into a position where you have to decide whether or not to continue cheering for your club because something as normal as hearing an announcer say the right back’s name reminds you of every single person that has hated and ridiculed you for who you are.

Sports are supposed to be the place we go to get away from all of that, particularly at a club like Tottenham, where the Proud Lilywhites supporters group’s rainbow flag was clearly visible on every television broadcast from White Hart Lane:

Ben Daniels and Michael Caley of Cartilage Free Captain, SB Nation’s Tottenham website, wrote a sensational piece on this topic and I encourage everyone to go read it.

Where I differ is that I do not believe that Aurier is off-limits to the club, but that is assuming the player is willing to make amends, to become a face fighting for equality within the league.

According to reports in France, PSG’s chairman punched a door over the lack of sincerity in Aurier’s apology. Compare that to Manchester United star Paul Pogba, who has spoken openly about respect that gay footballers deserve and shaved “#EQUAL” into his hair to support the cause.

Frankly, I’m not sure even that would be enough. Anyone can read a PR crafted apology when they know millions of dollars and a career’s worth of earning power is on the line.

Sit Aurier down with the LGBT supporter’s groups. Reach out to at-risk, LGBT youth. An apology is not as impactful as educating someone with his platform as to why using that language is such a problem.

Because I promise you Aurier is not alone in thinking it is OK to call people “f—-t”. I can also promise you I’m not the only one that is thankful that I didn’t have a platform and an app that could broadcast everything I said in my late-teens and early-20s to the entire world.

People should be allowed to make mistakes like this as long as they learn from them. Young athletes saying ignorant things should be a teaching point. Getting through to Aurier means reaching all the people that pay attention to what he has to say.

Which is why Tottenham, should they opt to sign Aurier, have a responsibility here.

But it’s about more than forcing an apology and a few public appearances. It’s more than a couple of well-produced twitter videos featuring

Aurier trying to make amends.

It is on the club to make Aurier prove that he wants to learn, and that he truly understands what he did and why it’s wrong.

And if he doesn’t, then he doesn’t deserve a place at Tottenham, and the club should be ashamed of putting the pursuit of a trophy ahead of the people willing to spend their life supporting Spurs without one.

 

UCL Roundup: Red Star, The New Saints (Wales) advance to second round

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Second legs are underway in the UEFA Champions League first qualification round, and both Red Star Belgrade and The New Saints from Wales are through to the second round.

Here’s a short roundup of UCL action on Tuesday:


Red Star Belgrade 2-1 Sudova (2-1 on Aggregate)

The Serbian giants advance to the next round with a big 2-1 win over Lithuanian Champions Sudova. Richmond Boakye and former Chelsea midfielder Marko Marin both scored in the first half. Red Star Belgrade was set to keep a clean sheet but Sudova scored late.

With the win, Red Star Belgrade moves on to face HJK Helsinki in Finland in the second round.


The New Saints 1-0 Feronikeli (3-2 on aggregate)

Welsh Premier League side The New Saints defeated Kosovan club Feronikeli, 1-0, thanks to a goal from Irish forward Dean Ebbe. Ebbe came off the bench and headed home a lofted ball into the box.

Feronikeli had chances to take the lead early, including twice in the first ten minutes, but blasted shots in the box well over the wall.

UEFA Champions League Second Leg Results

Shkendija 1 – 2 Nõmme Kalju 
Saburtalo 1 – 3 FC Sheriff
Valletta 1 – 1 F91 Dudelange
HB 2 – 2 HJK 

Solskjaer: ‘We just need consistency’

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In a vague, general word, Manchester United manager knows exactly what his club have been missing. Consistency.

More specifically, consistent success.

In a sit-down interview with the BBC, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer mentioned striving for consistency in performances on no less than four occasions, including when speaking about Alexis Sanchez. Man United won eight straight matches in all competitions and 10 of its first 11 under the Norwegian manager.

[READ: De Ligt lands in Turin ahead of Juventus move]

And yet, the consistency wasn’t there late in the season, when Man United faltered down the stretch and won just two of its last ten matches to close the season on a sour note. Man United finished in sixth place, and while Solskjaer said he believed it would be a challenge to break into the top four, he said with some consistent performances, Man United could achieve its goals.

“We have to aim for further up than fourth,” Solskjaer told the BBC. “I would rather be an optimist and be wrong than a pessimist and be right. I am not used to us being fifth or sixth but that is where we are at. That is the size of the challenge. I love that challenge.

“We have to work with the players, sign the right types and gradually make our way to the challenging line. Our players do have quality. They do have a chance. We just need consistency. We have to keep working every single day and not take our eyes off the target. Everyone gets off line at some point but you can’t let it drift too far because then you won’t get to the overall goal.”

Some Man United fans have been mumbling and rumbling due to the slow start in this summer’s transfer window. Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia have both departed on free transfers, while only Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have come in. While it’s not the improvements some fans were hoping for, it’s helped give some of the young players, like James Garner, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and Mason Greenword, some hope that they can get minutes.

Perhaps the push from the young players for first team minutes will make Man United a bit more competitive in training again, which can only help in terms of having success on the field.

The big question remains, which Man United team will we see this season. The one from Solskjaer’s first two months on the job, or the one from his last six weeks.

MLS Notes: Shea out for season with torn ACL, and more

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It appeared Brek Shea had finally gotten his career back on track, only for a serious injury to end his season prematurely.

Atlanta United announced on Tuesday that Shea had suffered a “right knee injury” that will involve season-ending surgery. An earlier report from the Athletic stated it was a torn ACL, which could leave Shea sidelined into the start of next season.

[READ: de Ligt arrives in Turin]

Shea has made 10 starts out of 19 appearances so far this season for Atlanta, where he’s often played as a left wing back or left midfielder, offering speed down the flank and a deeper starting position to connect with Atlanta’s talented attackers. A good season from Shea could have propelled him back into the USMNT conversation, especially if he took part in next season’s January camp. Now, that option is off the table.

Here’s some more MLS news and notes:

(more…)

De Ligt lands in Turin ahead of proposed Juventus move

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s recruiting tactics with Matthijs de Ligt during the UEFA Nations League final appears to have worked.

[READ: Transfer Rumor Roundup]

Juventus posted a video on the club’s social media accounts that shows de Ligt arriving in Turin, Italy on a private jet, likely to sign his contract and get started with the club. It’s a huge precursor to an announcement for one of the top targets of this summer’s transfer market, and it represents a huge coup for Juventus.

Just a month ago or so, Juventus were on the outside looking in, with Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, and even Manchester United and Manchester City all mentioned in the race to sign the Netherlands and Ajax star centerback. And yet, PSG, which appeared in the lead at one point, lost ground to Juventus, and de Ligt now gets to compete alongside Ronaldo after facing him twice over the past season.

It’s the latest move in the incredible rise of de Ligt over the past three years. De Ligt was promoted to Ajax’s first team as a 17-year-old, and pretty quickly established himself as a huge talent for the Netherlands. Then Netherlands National Team coach Danny Blind called up de Ligt to start in a crunch World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria, with the Netherlands desperate for some defensive answers.

It’s didn’t exactly go well.

And yet, de Ligt has overcome those experiences and raised his game to new levels each of the last two years. Alongside Davinson Sanchez, Ajax made it to the Europa League final, and last year, de Ligt scored as Ajax defeated Juventus on the way to the UEFA Champions League semifinals. Ajax was just a few minutes away from the finals before Tottenham’s late winner.

At the same time, along with Virgil Van Dijk, they form one of the strongest centerback partnerships in Europe, and look set to lead the Netherlands to UEFA Euro 2020.

As mentioned before, it’s a massive get for de Ligt, assuming that the soon-to-be 20-year-old can settle in Turin. Juventus’ defensive corps continues to grow older, with Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini both well into their 30s. De Ligt’s arrival can help give some stability at the back and allow Juventus to transition to the next generation of centerbacks.