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What next for Bafana Bafana star Percy Tau?

What next for Bafana Bafana star Percy Tau?
Percy Tau, left, in action for Club Brugge against Real Madrid midfielder Carlos Henrique Casemiro during the UEFA Champions League group A match at Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid in 2019. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Rodrigo Jimenez)

In spite of featuring substantially in Club Brugge’s charge to the Belgian League title, the club opted against extending the pacey Percy Tau’s loan spell. On the other hand, he is still not eligible for a work permit to represent parent club Brighton & Hove Albion.

Bafana Bafana player Percy Tau recently concluded his second full season in Europe. However, he is nowhere near making his bow in the English Premier League (EPL) due to stringent work permit laws in England.

The former Mamelodi Sundowns attacker announced a week ago that he would not be staying another season at Club Brugge in the Belgian Pro League. He has since been linked with another loan move, this time to Belgium’s most successful club, Anderlecht. For his part, he has not said anything on the matter.

The left-footer featured regularly for Brugge this season, on loan from EPL side Brighton & Hove Albion. He played 30 games in all competitions, scored four goals and grabbed eight assists before the season was abandoned in April due to Covid-19.

Brugge, by virtue of their 15-point lead at the summit with one game left to play, were crowned champions for the 2019/20 season. Tau earned his first championship medal in Europe as a result. 

However, it wasn’t his first accolade since making the move to Europe. He spent his first season on loan to Belgian second division side Union Saint-Gilloise, where he was named Player of the Season. That season he was involved in 24 goals (11 goals, 13 assists) after playing a total of 34 games for Union.

Permit pains

Tau was never likely to feature in the EPL after his initial move, considering the strict work permit regulations introduced by the English Football Association at the beginning of the 2015/16 season. The FA introduced these restrictions in an attempt to stem the influx of foreign players into the Premier League.

The fact that he came from outside of Europe, the fact that Bafana Bafana were ranked outside of the top 50 by Fifa at the time of his transfer (2018), along with the low transfer fee of R50-million (£2.7-million) that Brighton paid for him, were some of factors that lost him points in the FA’s work permit criteria.

Fast forward to 202o and Tau still does not qualify for a permit. 

According to the criteria, he must have participated in at least 75% of his home country’s senior competitive international matches where he was available for selection during the two years preceding the date of the application. Tau has achieved this, as since 2018 he has been a key player under both Stuart Baxter and Molefi Ntseki.

Another facet of the criteria is that prior to applying for a permit, the player’s club must have featured in the group stages of the Champions League and Europa League in the past 12 months. In this case, Brugge were in the Champions League before dropping to Europa, and Tau featured regularly for them. 

That’s as far as his points tally goes, however. Which leaves him with a total of two points, whereas the minimum required points tally is five. So, while Tau is certain not to play in the EPL this season, and with his four-year contract about to go into its third year, what can he do? 

There is not much the pacey attacker can do. He will continue to be loaned out, and it is highly possible that he will never don the Brighton jersey. What is important though for the Lion of Judah, as he is affectionately known, is that he does not stagnate. 

At 26, he still has time on his side and could land himself a move to another of the top five European leagues which do not have permit laws as stringent as those of England. The legendary Benni McCarthy only secured an EPL move at the age of 28, and this after he had been a key figure for FC Porto in Portugal in his four seasons there.

No matter where Tau ends up next season, be it Anderlecht or elsewhere, it is important that he keeps his head down and spirits up and continues improving and developing. DM 

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