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Percy Tau's Belgian move makes a mockery of his talent

Percy Tau playing for Mamelodi Sundowns Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

South Africa's top footballer Percy Tau will spend the season in the Belgian second division after signing a loan deal with Royale Union Saint-Gilloise in a move that makes a mockery of his talent.

Both clubs confirmed the move on Wednesday, trumpeting it as his opportunity to ease into life in Europe.

The switch was always on the cards as the Belgian club are owned by Brighton & Hove Albion boss Tony Bloom and the player was not eligible for a work permit in England to allow him to play in the Premier League.

But to be sent to a footballing outpost in the Belgian second-tier is a little like being sent to Siberia in the dead of winter.

It is the equivalent of putting the freeze on Tau's career for 12 months so that he can become eligible for Brighton, but is it really the best option for a player that is now 24 years of age and should be peaking? Brighton seem to think so, but their spin does not quite hold water.

"Percy is a talent we have brought to the club for the future, and this loan allows him to play regular senior football here in Europe," Brighton Development pathway manager David Weir said.

"It is a significant investment for us, and we will be closely watching his progress with Union and monitoring his development over the season."

It is certainly a good deal for Brighton, parking the player where they can keep an eye on him daily.

And it is a good deal for Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, who gain a top talent who is playing at a level far above their own and will provide an excellent spur to get them into the Belgian top flight.

But what does it do for Tau? Yes, he can get a feel for life in Europe and being away from the comforts of home, but that is about it.

It will in no way prepare him for the Premier League or what is to come. In fact, there is a real danger it holds him back by stunting his development.

We know this was the best option for Brighton and Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, but it is hard to believe that there was not a side in a much stronger league in Europe, or even the Belgian top flight, who would not have looked at Tau as an excellent addition for the season and offered him enough game-time to make the move worthwhile.

You would want him playing under the right coach who would aid in his development, but that should not be hard to find.

Bafana Bafana's lead striker, the country's Footballer of the Year and the most expensive export in South Africa's history going to play in the Belgian second division - it just feels wrong.

Whatever the spin, it is a wasted year for the player and while he may play well, and feature in the right number of Bafana games to get his English work permit, but will he be better for it?

Time will tell on that score and the move may prove to be a great one, but this feels like a disservice to Tau and a slight to South African football as a whole.