During the January transfer window of 2013 Newcastle recruited French International Moussa Sissoko from Toulouse for a reported £2m.
He joined the likes of Yanga-Mbiwa, Debuchy, Haidara and Gouffran on Tyneside, all of whom the majority of fans knew very little about.
The usual hype on social media followed instantly. Highlight videos on YouTube were frantically viewed. Huge assumptions were made.
To be fair to Sissoko; his debut in a black & white shirt more than matched the expectations of those YouTube-watching experts.
He notched twice and was an absolute thorn in the side of an aging but still very highly-rated Ashley Cole.
On one occasion in particular – which was highlighted by the ‘experts’ on BBC’s ‘Match of the day’ – he thundered past
the Chelsea left-back with surprising pace and sheer determination before advancing in on goal and crashing a shot just wide of the upright.
I remember thinking at the time he was like football’s equivalent of ‘The Terminator’ – the qualities he demonstrated during that game; strength, speed, direct play, and accurate shooting were reflected in
his physical appearance.
He looked like he could run through a brick wall!
Yet after 3 years of service for Newcastle United, if I were to make that same comparison I’d be loathed to suggest anything other than; ‘neither have a heart’.
Far all his talent, capability and physical attributes, he has never reached the heights he demonstrated during that Super-Hero showing against Chelsea.
1 in 10 games sees him produce a performance his potential allows and as a result he’s become a player who divides fans’ opinion more than any other at the club.
I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of fans will admit he’s got the gift. Only an idiotic Mackem would suggest otherwise. But at the same time you’d be pushed to find even those with blind faith suggesting Sissoko doesn’t relentlessly frustrate.
Scoring 2 goals in his first game came as nothing more than a huge ruse.
Over the course of the three seasons he’s only managed a total of 11 goals.
Granted he’s been played in a variety of midfield roles during that time, but it comes as no surprise that the majority of fans would be unsure as to his best position.
And I see this as a reflection of his inability to produce top performances on a regular basis as much as his physicality lends itself to versatility on a football pitch.
But this opinion isn’t limited to Sissoko’s attitude when on the field of play.
It seems that for every single transfer window he’s been at Newcastle we’ve been wondering whether this supposed ‘dream move’ of his to Arsenal will finally go through.
Perhaps Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger see’s the same thing as we do? A player with tremendous ability, but a below-average level of application.
Wenger doesn’t buy any player unless he’s 100% sure of their entire package as a footballer. And Sissoko’s character is more than questionable.
This morning I read further quotes attributed to our current number 7 where he talks up those Arsenal links again. A squad number previously occupied by Toon legends Kevin Keegan and Rob Lee. Yet Sissoko admits:
“I want to leave Newcastle.”
No shock! Nothing new there!
Moussa hasn’t appeared happy at Newcastle since the moment the final whistle blew on his debut. Performances on the pitch would suggest as much.
Given that we’ve now been relegated and he clearly feels he’s far too good for the Championship then I imagine it won’t be long until we’re reading stories of him knocking on Rafa’s door; requesting a move.
And if it does indeed go down that route then I don’t expect Rafa to stand in his way. This is a player he entrusted as Captain during that final game of the season against Spurs, and the only member of our current squad who will feature in Euro 2016 – it’s doubtless his status amongst the players is high, and Benitez won’t want someone of his standing rocking the boat before a season in the Championship where a feeling of ‘togetherness’ and ‘mental toughness’ will be key.
But regardless of Rafa’s decision I’m certainly not going to lose any sleep.
Sissoko is still an asset – but a sellable one, and definitely not irreplaceable.
For all that he can be absolutely breath-taking at times and is usually involved with anything of any quality coming from our attack; we can’t carry a single player whilst working to get out of the second tier. Our last stint in the Championship taught us that.
Given his fragile character and mentality, forcing him to stay at the club would far more likely see him replicating the most diabolical of his performances in black & white. If Rafa chooses to cash in then I’m more than happy he’ll have a plan in mind to replace him with someone who fits the bill in terms of ability and application.
The same situation applies with Gini Wijnaldum.
Sissoko may well go on to get that move to a Champions league club he so desires.
But he’ll have a tough learning curve if he thinks he can coast through his tenure and show his true ability as infrequently as he has during his time at Newcastle United.