JOHANNESBURG – Seven matches, four assists and one goal so far in the Belgian second division - those are not the statistics of some young emerging sensation soon to be whisked away by Real Madrid or Barcelona. They are Percy Tau’s numbers.
In fact, this could very well be a sign that he is perhaps even too good for the lower division, where his parent club Brighton & Hove Albion have sent him on a season-long loan.
The English club signed Tau from Mamelodi Sundowns for what is reportedly a South African record fee during the transfer window in August. But due to work permit issues and Brighton manager Chris Hughton seeing him as a future prospect, the Bafana Bafana star was loaned to Royale Union Saint Gilloise until the end of the campaign.
The idea is to see how quickly Tau, the Premier Soccer League’s reigning Footballer of the Year, can adjust to life in Europe. Experts and fans alike, from this part of the world at least, have been trying to make sense of why Hughton felt the second tier in Belgium was the best place for Tau to grow.
If anything, his form has maybe proved that he quite possibly might be among the best players in that division.
Making this more interesting is the fact that the 24-year-old has been playing either as an attacking midfielder or a second striker, not as Royale’s focal point in attack.
For us back home, Tau is being played out of position. But Royale manager Luka Elsner is simply following instructions from his counterpart in England. Word is that Hughton doesn’t see the former Sundowns hitman as a No 9 but more as someone who can link up play from the wing or just behind their main striker.
There should be no excuse then, if he continues with his current form, why Tau cannot return to Brighton next year to test himself against the best in the world, should Brighton not get relegated from the Premier League.
If you have seen one or two of Tau’s assists, and his brilliant first goal for the club, where he lobbed the ball over the goalkeeper to trigger wild celebrations at their tiny home stadium, you will understand the notion that is it almost too easy for him.
He appears as settled as he was playing in the yellow and blue of Sundowns a few months ago, turning the heat on the opposition and proving a nightmare to plan for.
Now that the decision has long been made and he is in the colours of Royale and thriving, let’s hope there really is room for him at his parent English club.
His new position is also a bit of a poser for Bafana coach Stuart Baxter, who had earmarked Tau as a potential replacement for Tokelo Rantie up front.
Until he struggled to make the squad in Turkey recently and then returned home to join Cape Town City as a free agent, Rantie was Bafana’s first choice striker. Baxter on Monday called up Dino Ndlovu and Lebo Mothiba as further options in attack and he will be working the duo as well as Tau to see how they can be a threat to the Seychelles in back-to-back 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers this month.
We shouldn’t be surprised that we are now looking elsewhere for goals and Tau, our main goal-getter who is too good for the Belgian second division, has been transformed into a provider.