Serge Aurier has a lot to look forward to: a hectic end of the season with Villarreal in La Liga and a trip to Anfield tomorrow for one of those meaningful Champions League nights.
Embracing the future is Aurier’s sunny outlook on life, and there’s plenty of that as he prepares for tomorrow’s trip to Merseyside. But first he wants to get rid of something: the end of his time at Tottenham Hotspur.
To describe his departure from north London as a mess is an understatement. Aurier had thrived under the disciplined but sensitive stewardship of Mauricio Pochettino. But Aurier didn’t find the methods of his successor Jose Mourinho – and especially his assistant Joao Sacramento – to his liking.
“Football is different than it was ten years ago,” says Aurier. “He’s still a great coach but things have evolved. Sometimes players need more love and attention. I don’t speak for Jose, I speak for his assistant. Joao is a tough guy and he didn’t have a good relationship with the dressing room, so everything went from bad to worse. There was a lack of good communication.”
However, Aurier has fond memories of working with Mourinho before his sacking on the eve of the 2021 Carabao Cup final. “We had a fight one day, but it was about a tactical issue,” he says. “I know I could talk to him with no problem because he likes the player to be honest. The next day the problem was solved. I love it because Mourinho listens to you and then tells you what he thinks.
“Sometimes you hate him and you want to kill him, but then you love him because he has the character of a born winner and I identify with him a lot.
“But we weren’t in a good mood and the club wasn’t happy. Imagine if we had won the final with him. Maybe they would have gone mad for him to stay and they would have offered him a contract extension. And if the club really wanted to sack him, that would have been impossible after winning the Carabao Cup.”
Aurier is just reviving those old flares because he’s the type of guy who speaks his mind, regardless of who it might upset. It’s an attitude that’s reflected in his football – Aurier isn’t one to play it safe and is just as likely to charge into opponents’ box as he is backtracking to protect his own, even if he is under the pragmatic Unai Emery was easily reined in at Villarreal.
But Aurier insists he hasn’t lost all his maverick tendencies – a point he underscored on his last visit to England in March, when he was sent off to Ivory Coast for a friendly at Wembley. “I admit I’m a bit reckless, but that’s how I express myself on the pitch,” he says.
“I like to be intense and go with a clear conscience. I don’t care what people say about me. I care what my family thinks. My main concern has always been to bring a plate of food to my family. Football is nothing without the fans and I respect that they criticize me, but I will not allow them to tease or offend my family.”
Aurier’s attitude was shaped by personal trauma, most notably the death of his brother Christopher, a player in France’s fifth tier, who was shot dead outside a nightclub in Toulouse after an alleged argument over his ex-girlfriend. Remarkably, Serge played for Spurs just two days later, but it was the start of a difficult year, culminating in his departure from Spurs last August.
A call from Emery at Villarreal offered him a fast route back to the top of Europe.
“I feel loved and respected here,” he says. “Unlike Tottenham, the team’s style of play is always based on having the ball and that has helped me to integrate better.”
His first Champions League game for the club was a 3-0 win at Juventus in the round of 16, and in the quarter-final decider at the Allianz Arena he helped resist an onslaught from Bayern Munich, ending in a 1-1 draw secured a place in the last four.
A meeting with Liverpool arguably marks another step in the class, but with the spirit Emery has built, anything seems possible. And Aurier – who still remembers Spurs’ loss to Liverpool in the 2019 Champions League final – is adamant Anfield can be injured.
“Liverpool are one of the best teams in the world but that won’t stop us from fighting. And fighting is my motto in life.”
https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/champions-league/fighter-serge-aurier-seeks-to-bury-ghosts-of-tough-sacramento-at-spurs-with-famous-anfield-win-41587147.html Fighter Serge Aurier tries to bury the spirits of ‘tough’ Sacramento at Spurs with famous Anfield win