Former Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is not a figure fondly remembered by Magpies supporters as a result of his turbulent stint at the helm, although one of the Englishman’s rare success stories came with regards to the signing of midfielder, Yohan Cabaye.
Arguably the most successful of the Tynesiders’ spate of French imports in the early 2010s – during Alan Pardew’s spell as manager – the diminutive playmaker remains a much-loved figure at St James’ Park, having dazzled during his two-and-a-half-year stay with the club.
The 5 foot 9 genius was snapped up by Ashley and co in the summer of 2011 after having helped guide Ligue 1 side Lille to a league and cup double the previous season, with the northeast side forking out what proved to be a relative bargain fee of just £4.3m to secure his signature.
The creative gem – who had scored 37 goals and provided 32 assists in 252 games during his time in France – would go on to enjoy a fine debut campaign in the Premier League, scoring four goals and laying on six assists as Pardew’s side claimed a remarkable fifth-placed finish.
That stunning season on both a collective and individual basis saw the Tourcoing-born menace memorably net a sensational 30-yard free-kick during a 3-0 win over Manchester United, having developed a particular knack for delivering from set-pieces.
Such quality would again be evident the following season as Cabaye netted six top-flight goals in 26 appearances, with that tally including a memorable strike away at Liverpool to become the first Newcastle player to score at Anfield in eight years.
The 48-cap gem’s best scoring season came during the 2013/14 campaign – despite his eventual departure during the mid-season window – as he registered seven goals in just 19 league games, including a winner against the Red Devils once again to claim his side’s first victory at Old Trafford in 41 years.
That season had begun with the midfield maestro having been the subject of a £10m bid from Arsenal – resulting in his refusal to play – although he quickly put that behind him to once again deliver the goods, before ultimately securing a switch to Paris Saint-Germain in January 2014.
That exit enabled Ashley and co to earn a tidy profit on their initial investment as the player moved on for a fee in the region of £19m, having scored 18 goals and provided 14 assists in 93 games in all competitions at St James’ Park.
A player who could provide that “X-factor” when needed – as described by former boss Pardew – the now-retired gem ultimately went on to return to English football in 2015 after securing a switch to Selhurst Park, before seeing out his playing days with Al Nasr and Saint-Etienne.
A truly glorious footballer to watch in his prime, it was no doubt something of a masterstroke being able to bring the playmaker to Newcastle in the first place, with the only shame being that he couldn’t have continued to produce moments of magic for longer with the Magpies.