Floyd Ayite to Fulham
After rumours linking Nottingham Forest with SC Bastia’s winger / centre-forward Floyd Ayite after they brought in Philippe Montanier as their new manager, the Togolese international has signed for Fulham on a three-year deal with an option for one more.
— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) July 1, 2016
Ayite can play all across the front three, and given Bastia’s approach, has experience in several other attacking roles; perhaps best-suited to being a winger, he is also well-used to playing centrally, which may serve him well if his explosive pace starts to wane. His WhoScored profile might rightly say “likes to shoot from distance” but they are a little harsh on his finishing, and he does have a habit of scoring key goals in tight situations. Predominantly right-footed, he can also score with his left, although there aren’t a lot of headers on his record. Playing it on the deck – or over the top but to feet – seems the best approach for setting him up; and he can also set up team-mates as his assist record shows.
One thing to watch is that he can be a little hot-headed, sent off against Guingamp last season for taking Thibault Giresse’s legs out from under him in a match where Bastia finished with nine men – his other career red being for a wild flying challenge shortly after opening the scoring for Reims in 2012/13.
Originally signed to his local club Bordeaux, Ayite’s first season of consistent starts came with a loan to then-Ligue 2 side Angers, scoring 3 in 33 as they finished seventh in the 2008/09 season. Another loan, to Nancy, followed, but he rarely featured in his first season in the top-flight, and was similarly little used in his only real season for the Girondins in 2010/11. Let go by them after not featuring at all in the following season, at 23 he played a small but useful part in Reims’ winning promotion after turning up midway through 2011/12 and getting three goals and four assists, followed by a more modest but understandable two and one in their first season back in Ligue 1. A more stable 2013/14 brought five and five, and a move to Bastia.
The Corsican team mostly rely on making their home stadium a fortress and a robust approach, but Ayite proved a good foil for a team often characterised by its defence with thirteen league goals and six assists over his two seasons at Furiani, ending as their top-scorer both years. He was also nominated for the Marc Vivien Foé award in 2016 (recognising the best African player in Ligue 1) that was won by Lille’s Sofiane Boufal.
Born in Bordeaux, Ayite followed his older brother Jonathan in choosing to play for Togo, and was first called up to the national team in 2007. After making his debut in 2008, he was in the squad for CAN 2010, with his brother in the bus attack that lead to their withdrawal, followed by the shameful (and overturned) decision by CAF to exclude them from future competitions. He got his first consistent run of caps in CAN 2013, where Togo reached the quarter finals, has since played a part in the unsuccessful qualifying campaign for CAN 2015, and despite some ructions with the former manager in summer 2015, has two goals in the qualifiers for CAN 2017. The last qualifying match to be played in September will feature Togo playing the already-eliminated Djibouti and hoping to get to eleven points, to have a chance of progressing as Tunisia play Liberia (equal on ten).
In Ayite, you are buying a player willing and able to play in multiple positions, who is used to working with limited opportunity but making it count. He may not be a world-beater but he has been a solid performer for teams that finished 11th, 12th and 10th in Ligue 1 in the past three seasons, and seems well-set to deal with a physical game – if only from training with his Bastia team-mates. Given his longevity, it is easy to forget that he is still only 27, and so more than capable of doing a job for a couple of seasons, and has experience of a promotion push. With Fulham looking to improve on an underwhelming 20th place last season, this could be a very good piece of business.