A far cry from the French Riviera, Newcastle is fast becoming a hotspot for French players to find their Joie de Vivre. With Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa, Gabriel Obertan and Sylvain Marveaux all plying their trade on Tyneside, Alan Pardew and his scouting network are looking to continue the French Revolution at St James’ Park.
It was announced today that Stade de Reims Midfielder Romain Amalfitano looks set to join the Magpies after failing to agree a new contract with his recently promoted club. Graeme Carr, the clubs chief scout (and as an off topic side note the father of comedian Alan Carr!) has set up an astute scouting network in France that has already paid dividends for the team in the North-East. As well as Amalfitano, Montpellier defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Lille Full-back Mathieu Debuchy have also impressed Carr and talks with their respective clubs are on-going. Although not household names in England, Yanga-Mbiwa has assisted Montpellier in winning their first ever Ligue 1 title and has been named in the provisional squad for France’s Euro 2012 campaign. Lille’s Mathieu Debuchy is another player who has impressed across the channel this year, his links to Manchester United and Bayern Munich unsurprising considering his form. With Europa League football arriving at St James’ next season the addition of these two Frenchman will bolster Newcastle’s defence. Will other Premier League teams now sit up and take notice of the Magpies transfer policy?
Firstly, the average wage for a player in France’s top league is around £32,000. The average for a Premier League player is around £80,000. A vast difference, scouting for talent in France is financially beneficial for clubs that cannot afford to offer large wages. Newcastle, who were in a financial mess 5 years ago have now restricted their debts, largely through controlling the amount spent on player wages. By turning to French players, they are able to secure raw talent that do not expect a large rise in their wages. With clubs such as Everton and Aston Villa running on fairly tight budgets, taking a page out of Newcastle’s book could prove worthwhile.
Speaking earlier in the year Alan Pardew admitted that their transfer policy has been noticed and admired by other teams;
“We’ve had big success in the transfer market just recently and other teams have noticed, it isn’t lost on them.”
“So when we come in for a player suddenly another club gets interested and the prices start going up. Suddenly we get into a bidding war. That’s something we try to avoid.”
Fortunately, Newcastle have gone about their business quietly so far this summer and advanced talks with aforementioned players, have not been interrupted by other clubs interest. However, if United complete these signings and continue bringing relatively unknown French talent into the club, then it will only be a matter of time before others jump on the bandwagon and dip their toes into the vast array of cheap Ligue 1 talent.
In the past, Arsenal have handpicked some genuine talent from relative obscurity in France. Laurent Koscielny was playing for Ligue 2 FC Lorient before Arsene Wenger bought him to the Emirates. The Frenchman is now a fully-fledged international and one of the Gunners most valuable players. It seems that transition from French to English Football is relatively easy. The style of play in the two leagues is fairly similar. Fast paced, end-to-end action intertwined with Strong, powerful strikers that aerially dominate Defenders. You only have to see the talents and success of Didier Drogba in both leagues to understand that the transition to English Football is easier for Ligue 1 than other European leagues.
Another successful season for Newcastle in 2012/2013 will only increase the spotlight on its transfer policy and it won’t be long before other teams look toward France for securing cheap talent. If this transfer policy pays off for other Premier League teams, a massive ‘Merci beaucoup’ will be owed to Alan Pardew and his superb scouting network.
Is a French revolution the answer? Go tête-à-tête with me on Twitter. @mattpegg1