While Newcastle United fans will no doubt be glad to see the back of Mike Ashley, one thing they will hold onto as a rare success story from his time at the club, is the signing of Allan Saint-Maximin.
The Magpies brought in the talented Frenchman from Ligue 1 outfit Nice for a reported fee of £16.5m, with then boss Steve Bruce quick to rave about the winger.
He said: “I’m delighted to bring Allan to St. James’ Park. He is a very talented young player with a big future ahead of him. He has all the attributes you would want in an attacking player, including lightning pace, so I’m sure he’ll excite everybody. He is a great addition to Newcastle United and the Premier League.”
And what a signing he has been for the Tyneside club.
In 80 games for the Magpies, he’s scored 12 goals and provided 14 assists, and while those may not seem like the kind of spectacular numbers that would catch most people’s eyes, his influence in games is simply far bigger.
As per Whoscored, he’s only second behind Callum Wilson in terms of goal scored this season and ranks top for assists, while his underlying numbers are equally as impressive and influential.
Out of players who have started more than five games this campaign, Saint-Maximin is number one for shots per game, number one for dribbles and number two for key passes – in fact, nobody in the Premier League can even come close to matching his whopping 4.6 dribbles per match this year.
One man who has seen Saint-Maximin’s talents up close is teammate Callum Wilson, with the Magpies striker waxing lyrical about his ability and how far he can go in the game.
The 29-year-old said: “I think the world’s his oyster, really. He’s got all the potential in the world and his attitude matches that as well. He’s quite a quiet, humble guy – he wears some lively clothes at times, but he’s a good guy. He’s got all the talent in the world, he can beat a player – sometimes once you’ve beaten him, get some end product, like he has been doing.
“He makes the game look so easy; for my goal against Burnley, the way he’s done a little bit of trickery himself and then just put a ball in the box – great end product, unstoppable, unplayable.”
CIES now value him a far higher £25m, and that’s a testament to just how well he has played in the Premier League.
While Ashley’s tenure at St James’ Park was nothing short of a disaster, he did get one thing right in signing Saint-Maximin, and then getting him to pen a new six-year deal in October 2020.
It’s something the new owners PIF will be absolutely buzzing about at having such a star player in their ranks to build around in the years to come.
Meanwhile, Newcastle must finally sell this star…