Percy Tau could eventually have his wish of playing in the English Premier League (EPL) granted.
The 26-year-old striker has collected valuable points while playing regularly for Belgian giant Club Brugge in Europe’s top club competitions – the Uefa Champions League and Europa League – this season.
This might satisfy the UK work permit requirements for him to turn out for his parent club Brighton and Hove Albion in the EPL next season, provided the Seagulls avoid relegation.
Tau spent the past 18 months on loan in Belgium after failing to meet the work permit requirements since he left Mamelodi Sundowns to join Brighton in a South African record-breaking four-year deal worth more than R50 million in June 2018.
Part of the conditions state that: “Prior to the application [for the work permit], the player’s club must have featured in the group stages of the Champions League and Europa League in the past 12 months. The player must have featured in 30% of the available minutes.”
The Bafana Bafana star has met this specific requirement with distinction as he turned out regularly in the two competitions with the Jupiler Pro League side.
Not many players can claim to have played against the most elite footballers in Europe, and Tau has achieved this feat in one season.
The player from Emalahleni in Mpumalanga has faced Spanish La Liga giants Real Madrid, France’s mega club Paris Saint-Germain and Turkey’s powerhouse Galatasary in the Champions League group phase.
Brugge’s elimination and subsequent demotion to the Europa League pitted Tau’s team against Manchester United. He played 62 minutes in Brugge’s 1-1 home draw against United on Thursday.
Tau is expected to make the squad for the return leg at Old Trafford this Thursday, in a trip that could be a good omen.
His manager Mmatsatsi Sefalafala is set to attend the game, however, she declined to say whether she would meet with Brighton while in the UK.
“All I can say is that we are in constant communication with Brighton regarding Percy,” she told City Press this week.
When Tau joined Brugge in July, there was no agreement to turn his loan at the club into a permanent move, an indication that there would be attempts to get the player back to England.
After he was unveiled by Brighton almost two years ago, Tau was first loaned out to Royale Union Saint-Gilloise in Belgium’s second-tier league. In his debut season at Saint-Gilloise, Tau made 35 appearances in all competitions, scored 13 goals and bagged Belgium’s Proximus League player of the year award.
So far, he has played 28 games for the league title-chasing Brugge and has scored four times. Brugge are nine points clear at the top, with four games remaining.
With these impressive statistics and a championship winner’s medal a possibility, Brighton can comfortably show that Tau is “internationally established at the highest level, and will make a significant contribution to the development of football at the highest level in the UK”, as per the criteria set out by the English Football Association (FA).
However, to secure a work permit, which is issued by the UK’s home office, Brighton must first receive a “governing body endorsement” from the FA.
For Tau to qualify for the endorsement, he must have played in 75% of Bafana’s international matches. This is calculated over two years and determined by the Fifa world rankings.
Bafana are currently rated 71st, and if the player’s national association is ranked outside the top 60, then the 75% participation requirement applies.
Tau has 23 Bafana caps and his fate could be decided by the FA’s “exceptions panel”, which will then determine what the FA describes as “the player’s experience and value” to determine whether a governing body endorsement should be granted.
The panel is the appeals body that will consider, on a points-based system, the player’s experience and value before deciding if he can join the club.
Prior to this weekend’s games, Brighton were three points from the drop zone. Hopefully, by the time Tau is granted a work permit, he wouldn’t have to start in the Championship.