South African superstar Brighton has waited two and a half years to get her into the Premier League

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It was on Friday 20 July 2018 when Brighton announced the signing of striker Percy Tau. The Seagulls had agreed to a £ 2.5 million fee with Mamelodi Sundowns, and Tau signed a four-year deal at Amex.

Football fans in his homeland raved about the prospect of the Lion of Judah becoming the Premier League, while 13,000 kilometers away in Sussex, Brighton fans were intrigued by what a center forward of the South African Premier Soccer League could contribute to Amex. .

However, there was a small problem. Tau had no hope of obtaining a work permit. South Africa was out of the top 50 of the FIFA World Rankings and is unlikely to stand out at any point in the near future.

The only way for Tau to earn the right to move to England would be to spend several years racking up loaned qualifying points in a European top flight, and even that seemed an unlikely route unless he could spend two or three seasons with clubs that left. away in the Champions League or Europa League.

However, Brexit has changed all that. With the UK’s departure from the European Union, the Football Association has rewritten its work permit rules. The end of freedom of movement for EU citizens to live and work in the UK has made signing young players from Europe much more difficult. To compensate for that, the FA has facilitated the incorporation of players from the rest of the world. Hi Percy.

So what has Tau been up to in the two and a half years that he’s been a Brighton player who couldn’t play for Brighton? Making a good impression in Belgium is the answer. Tau’s first destination after joining the Seagulls was Union Saint-Gilloise, the Brussels-based club also owned by Brighton president Tony Bloom, who competed at the second tier of Belgian football.

Percy Tau was named Proximus League Player of the Year during his season with Union Saint-Gilloise in 2018/19
Percy Tau Named Proximus League Player of the Year During His Season with Union Saint-Gilloise in 2018/19 | JOHAN EYCKENS / Getty Images

No work permit points were offered for Tau’s efforts in the Proximus League during the 2018/19 campaign. Instead, he needed to focus on building a reputation for himself that could convince a team bigger than Union to give him a shot next season. Tau duly did so, enjoying a memorable season that culminated in his winning the Proximus League Player of the Year award.

He scored 13 times and assisted 15 in his 35 appearances with Union and, although they missed promotion to the top flight, there was a famous run to the Belgian Cup semi-finals that included historic victories over city rivals Anderlecht and a Genk team that would go on to win the Jupiler League title at the end of the season.

That summer, Tau further enhanced his reputation by inspiring South Africa on an unlikely trip to the quarter-finals of the 2019 African Cup of Nations. He was the best player on the field when Bafana Bafana surprised hosts and tournament favorites Egypt in the second round, eliminating Mohamed Salah and company through a 1-0 victory in Cairo.

Tau was part of the South African team that eliminated host Egypt from the 2019 African Cup of Nations.
Tau was part of the South African team that eliminated host Egypt from the 2019 African Cup of Nations | OZAN ​​KOSE / Getty Images

South Africa’s performance in the tournament was still not enough to get them into the world’s top 50, so Tau had to spend the 2019/20 season in Belgium again. However, the Lion of Judah was rising in the world, his Union form convinced the Brugge Club to take a chance. During his year at the Club, Tau played in the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid, claiming an assist in the 2-2 draw at the Bernabéu. When the Club entered the Europa League, Tau gave Manchester United a lot to think about. He ended his stay in Bruges with four goals, eight assists and a Jupiler League winner’s medal after the Club won the Belgian title when the season was interrupted due to Covid-19.

For the 2020/21 season, Tau joined his Belgian third team when Vincent Kompany brought him to Anderlecht. The Lion of Judah has made quite an impression in the four months he has worked with the former Manchester City captain, who spoke enthusiastically about Tau.

“Percy is a player with a high level football brain”, Kompany said in an interview with the South African soccer website “Besides his talent and his ability with the ball, Percy works hard, so we are a good match. He is a talented player who works hard and has the right attitude towards his teammates. Within our team, it is easy for It is easy for him to show his best side, but none of that would be possible without his willingness to work.

“When you first see Percy training, you immediately think he’s an artist, someone who likes the beautiful gesture, the beautiful dribbling. He is an artist with an advantage, which is exactly why I value him so much. It is a mixture of his talent and his hard work and for me, that is not negotiable, and that is why he fits very well with our team.

Tau's form for Anderlecht in 2020/21 has seen Vincent Kompany highlight it as special praise
Tau’s form for Anderlecht in 2020/21 has seen Vincent Kompany highlight him as special praise | VIRGINIE LEFOUR / Getty Images

Tau had scored four goals in 14 appearances before Brighton exercised the withdrawal option were inserted into his loan from Anderlecht once it became clear that his exploits in the Belgian top flight, coupled with the relaxation in work permit rules, meant that the Lion of Judah could finally make it to the Premier League.

At first glance, Tau doesn’t seem like an obvious solution to the problems that have plagued Brighton so far this season. He’s not an outright scorer of the type that the Gaviotas have been crying out for. The Graham Potter site has had no trouble creating opportunities; It’s their inability to finish them off that has led them to sit dangerously close to the relegation zone with just two Premier League wins on the board.

Instead, Tau brings a skill set that sets him apart from Potter’s other advancement options. He is a ball carrier, someone who seeks to run, dribble and face players. Seagulls football under Potter this season has been characterized by a side pass followed by a side pass, often played at a pedestrian pace. Tau will inject rhythm and a different threat to opposition defenses. Variety is the spice of life and for much of this season, Brighton has seemed very one-dimensional.

Tau is also versatile. He has been deployed as a center forward, second forward, number ten and both right and left of three forwards throughout his career. In Potter’s 3-4-1-2 / 3-4-3 favorite, he could fill any of the forward positions with equal effectiveness.

Mamelodi Sundowns’ move to the Premier League is obviously huge. Even coming from Belgium to England is difficult and there are no guarantees that Tau is cut out for the Premier League.

But with his army of enthusiastic South African supporters taking over every one of Brighton’s official social media accounts and a smile that seems to be permanently etched on his face, Tau’s long-awaited arrival in England will be entertaining to say the least. The Lion of Judah is finally here.

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