The South Africa forward has been tipped for an exit from Brighton & Hove Albion, but is a switch to Egypt wise?
Percy Tau has been heavily linked with the Brighton & Hove Albion exit door over the last week, with the South Africa forward rumoured to be attracting the interest of Egyptian giants and reigning continental champions Al Ahly.
On one hand, there’s logic behind the potential switch.
Tau appears to have lost his way in European football, having played a limited role for the Seagulls in their battle against the drop after returning from his loan deal midway through last season.
A switch to Ahly would also afford him a reunion with Pitso Mosimane, a coach who has meant more to his career than any other.
It was under Mosimane that Tau enjoyed his rise to prominence while the duo worked together at Mamelodi Sundowns.
The forward honed his craft under the South African forward, and was a PSL champion in 2014 and 2018.
He was also influential—in 2016—as the Brazilians conquered the continent and won the Caf Champions League for the first time in their history.
Mosimane and Tau stood together at the pinnacle of African football, sharing their career highlight together.
Since then, their fortunes have gone in different directions.
Mosimane moved to Ahly and has cemented his status as the most successful African coach on the planet, winning back-to-back Champions Leagues, impressing at the Club World Cup, and winning a swathe of other honours.
Tau, by contrast, secured his move to European football in 2018—signing for Brighton—but was unable to make his mark at the club due to work permit issues.
He’s subsequently represented the likes of Union Saint-Gilloise, Club Brugge and Anderlecht on loan, but managed just three league appearances with the Seagulls last term after being recalled from his loan deal.
It was an overwhelmingly disappointing return for the forward, who had been tipped for great things by Brighton boss Graham Potter upon his return to the club.
“We’re pleased to be able to welcome Percy to the club and begin working with him,” Potter told journalists. “I know he’s a player whose progress many of our fans have followed in recent seasons.
“We too have closely monitored his performances in Belgium in the last three years,” he added. “He’s been playing at a really good level, particularly with Bruges and Anderlecht where he has been involved in the Champions League, and his next step is to show he is ready to make the transition into the Premier League.
“He brings some different attributes and qualities to the group and he wants to take the next step in his career.”
That, ultimately, didn’t happen, and Potter appeared strangely reluctant to throw Tau into the mix either when Brighton were still battling to stay in the division, or once their Premier League safety was secured.
While Potter was understanding about allowing Tau to represent South Africa in the Spring—risking quarantine in the process—he was unwilling to allow the forward to join David Notoane’s Olympic squad, with Brighton refusing to sanction his release.
This appeared to indicate that the Prem club were planning to integrate Tau more successfully into the side and make him a more prominent figure during the 2021-22 campaign.
Certainly, the Bafana forward appeared to believe that he was destined for big things this season—and the optimism was fuelled by his stunning goal against Luton Town in a recent friendly.
However, rumours of a move to Ahly—swelled by public acknowledgement from Pitso Mosimane—appear to kibosh any hopes of Tau finally making an impact in England.
It risks being a disastrous move for the forward who, at 27, really needs to be looking at leaving his lasting legacy in European football, not stepping down to a lesser environment.
He’s been made to wait so long to finally enjoy a full season at Brighton—and for both him and his supporters to find out if he can cut it at this level—then it would be a bitter disappointment for him to leave now and to never know if he could have been good enough for the top.
Admittedly, a move back to Egyptian football from Europe hasn’t been a death knell for the careers of the likes of Ahmed Hegazy or Ramadan Sobhi, but they were difference cases altogether, and Tau must resist the allure of a Mosimane reunion in order to make his case at Brighton.
If the Seagulls have decided that Tau isn’t the man for them—and this isn’t beyond the realms of possibility considering how he was overlooked by Potter last term—then he must seek a move to one of Europe’s bigger leagues, rather than stepping back to Africa so soon in his career.
Tau’s movement off the ball, his footwork, his technique, and his eye for goal, all set him apart as one of the continent’s most eye-catching widemen today, and a player who could have a lot to offer a team competing against some of Europe’s tougher defences.
A switch to Egypt, where there have been issues about player payment, crowds being able to attend games, and television rights, would represent a premature regressive step for a player who—let’s not forget—only left Africa three years ago.
Tau must give it at least five more months at Brighton—unless the club state otherwise—and assess his options in January.