Newcastle gamble on French recruits

Sign in bulk quality players from France. Yoann Gouffran, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Mathieu Debuchy, Massaido Haidara and Moussa Sissoko all arrived in the North East from Ligue 1. They cost barely the figure it will cost Manchester United to bring in Wilfried Zaha at the season’s end.

Newcastle now have a selection of players to choose from as they looked to add strength in depth to a weak squad. If Tuesday’s win at Aston Villa was anything to go by, it may be a gamble worth taking. Yet there are four months of the season to go and it will be interesting to see how the players adapt.

On the face of it, they are all good signings. Gouffran is a fast striker with a good eye for goal with either foot. Yanga-Mbiwa was the rock at the heart of the Montpellier defence as they upset Paris St Germain to win the French title last season. Debuchy was brilliant for France at the European Championships and a hugely under appreciated right back, Haidara is a promising left back and Sissoko a powerful yet technically accomplished central midfielder. All have things going for them, and all have the ability certainly to make an impact.

The question is whether it will work. Newcastle have more players of French nationality than any other club have had of any nationality in English football. It could be a good thing for team harmony, bringing together most of the players through their common culture. Or it could be a problem, causing splits and cliques in the camp. There have already been reports of such cliques developing between the different nationalities at St James’ Park. Certainly it will be interesting to see Fabricio Coloccini, the want away Argentine centre back, leading a team full of French speakers in front of the Dutch goalie Tim Krul for the remainder of the season.

The players will be required at least to learn English, according to manager Alan Pardew (or as many have dubbed him, Pardieu). It is quite ironic given that Pardew only speaks a little French himself and his chief scout working in France, Graham Carr, can barely speak any of the language. Un regle pour ceux, un autre pour les autres? It would certainly seem so.

There are interesting precedents for a team dominated by players of one nationality. The Inter Milan side of five or six years ago was dominated by Argentines, although in the Calciopoli scandal the club were elevated to the top of the Italian pyramid anyway. Shakhtar Donetsk have been highly successful of late with a clutch of Brazilians at the heart of their success. But then the Barcelona team of Louis van Gaal suffered because of divisions after a raft of Dutchmen were brought in. But then Dutch sides often fight among each other, so perhaps that was the reason for Barcelona’s problems.

Whatever it is, Newcastle are taking a big gamble. The North East club are battling relegation and have certainly made some good signings. What they have done is clever, buying from a market which provides quality players at cheap prices. French players like Yanga-Mbiwa, Sissoko and Gouffran are better than their English equivalents and far cheaper. For £6 million Yanga-Mbiwa, you could have spent double to get an inferior Michael Dawson. The £1.5 million Sissoko or Gouffran are infinitely better than an English equivalent such as Jack Rodwell or Darren Bent, who would cost near to 10 times those figures.

So whether the gamble works or not, Newcastle should get good value for money. The sell on value of these players will be huge given that Newcastle are an English club and so can charge English premiums. It would be no surprise to see the club from the North East taking £10 or £15 million for a Sissoko or Debuchy in the near future.