Serge Aurier needs a move away from PSG to shake unprofessional image
Right-back Serge Aurier's past 12 months or so with Paris Saint-Germain have been interesting, to say the least. They also may well have been his last at Parc des Princes.
Towards the end of the French champions' 2-1 win away at FC Lorient in Ligue 1 on Sunday, it took the Ivory Coast international the best part of 10 minutes to warm up and be ready to come on and replace positional rival Thomas Meunier at Stade du Moustoir.
Aurier not having warmed up ahead of relieving the Belgium international was not the problem; there was no way the African or coach Unai Emery could have predicted in advance that Meunier would need to come off. However, what was inexcusable was the fact that Aurier did not have his kit on underneath his tracksuit and took almost four minutes to dress himself on the substitutes bench while teammate Goncalo Guedes watched on dumbfounded.
The 24-year-old's slapstick routine in Lorient was the latest in a string of controversies that have plagued the former Toulouse and RC Lens man in the past year, and although it was not the most serious, it certainly demonstrated one thing: Aurier is still lacking professionalism.
PSG director of football Patrick Kluivert admitted after the match in Brittany that he needed to speak with the full-back and that "usually, every player should be ready in case the coach needs you." RMC Sport reported earlier this week that the player has escaped without sanction though.
Barcelona have been linked with a move for Aurier for the past few months and Spanish reports believe Les Parisiens' decision to not punish their No. 19 is because they have already decided to sell him this summer with Camp Nou one of his potential destinations.
The man from Ouragahio took to Twitter to defend himself and claim that "the media machine" had created a controversy but the simple truth is that a substitute was not ready for action when the coach needed him.
"Why" is an obvious question to ask and would have been posed regardless of which player was not ready to take to the pitch in Lorient. It is not simply because it is Aurier that this issue has created waves. However, it is unfortunate that it was once again Ivorian star at the heart of it all.
Aurier's difficult past 12 months started back in early 2016 when he insulted then-coach Laurent Blanc and numerous teammates in an ill-advised appearance on social media platform Periscope. The player was then arrested, charged and taken to court for allegedly assaulting a police officer outside a nightclub in May. He was eventually found guilty and handed a convertible two-month prison sentence but has since appealed and is awaiting further news.
To add to the pressure on Aurier, PSG then acquired Meunier from Club Brugge and the Belgian went on to put in some superb performances at the European Championship in France. Aurier started the new season as Emery's first-choice right-back, but Meunier quickly made it obvious to his teammate that he was not around to just be a substitute and Aurier's form took a hit.
Controversy reared its head again in October when FIFA announced an ultimately fruitless investigation into Aurier's throat-slit gesture while playing for Les Elephants. That incident unfairly overshadowed the fact that the PSG man actually saved the life of a Mali player during the same World Cup qualifier.
Things improved a little for Aurier towards the end of 2016, when his displays on the pitch picked up and talk of interest from Barca surfaced, but that optimism was quickly brought crashing down by the revocation of his visa to enter the UK for a Champions League clash with Arsenal.
It was his ongoing appeal against his sentence for alleged assault that complicated his entry into the country, and it was a reminder that although he is a fantastic right-back on his day -- arguably one of the world's best -- he is simply brings too much baggage.
Showings like his superb outing in the 1-1 home draw with the Gunners to kick off the Champions League group stage have been few and far between so far this campaign, and Meunier has completely usurped Aurier as Emery's first choice since an unsuccessful 2017 African Nations Cup campaign.
Meunier is now ahead of Aurier not only on merit, mainly through his Maxwell-esque consistency, he also leads his positional foe because of his mentality. The man from Sainte-Ode is a strong character but in the most positive way and on the pitch, that makes him a reliable figure.
Aurier, although he has cleaned up his act and made an effort to behave better, just cannot shake the unprofessional image that has been built up over the past year.
Many French football pundits believe he will be better off escaping his life on and off the pitch in Paris by making a move abroad, where he will have few -- if any -- distractions. It is hard to disagree at this moment in time.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.