Born in the southwest of his native Ivory Coast, Jean Michaël Seri signed for his first professional club – the Abidjan-based ASEC Mimosas – as an 18-year-old in early 2010. His talents were spotted early, with a loan move to Porto secured in 2012 although, with no place for him in the first-team squad, the young Seri instead spent half a season with Porto B.
That spell was enough to take him to another Portuguese top-flight club, Pacos de Ferreira. In two years there Seri demonstrated a mixture of technical ability and athleticism, both with and without the ball. His potential as an effective number eight drew the attention of Nice, who had to shell out a surprisingly low €1m to recruit a player yet to turn 24. Used mainly as an advanced central midfielder in his time in the south of France, he could also drop deeper into a more defensive role, although this limited his ability to move up the pitch with the late supporting runs at which he excels.
Despite not always playing in his most natural position, Seri helped Nice rise from previously modest Ligue 1 finishes to fourth and third in his first two seasons. A disappointing third campaign featured them dropping to eighth, with Seri’s levels also dropping in the wake of the potential move to Barcelona that never materialised. Fulham similarly did not get the return they may have hoped for from their £25m investment, but his reputation meant that after their relegation he interested Galatasaray, who paid a loan fee of €1.5m euros, with the option to make the move permanent for €18m.