With the European Championships having started yesterday evening, every Newcastle fan has unsurprisingly switched their attention to the competitions likely stars, transfer targets and club favourites. Graham Carr’s French revolution means that Tyneside will have one eye on Les Bleus, battling alongside Roy’s boys to finish top of Group D.
Three former Magpies in the shape of Andy Carroll, James Milner and Scott Parker, all coincidently wearing the same number they donned in black and white, will all represent the Three Lions. Despite the circumstances they departed on, they all played their part for United and could potentially play a key role in England’s campaign.
Come June 11th, Geordie affections may drift towards a resurgent French side with fan favourite Yohan Cabaye likely to start and Hatem Ben Arfa to have an impact coming off the bench. The Tyneside duo are the poster boys of Carr and Pardew’s French influx, and both could play a vital part in the signing of target Mathieu Debuchy.
Cabaye spent several years playing with Debuchy at Lille and believes that he has “tremendous physical qualities and tackling ability”, skills that would be hugely valued at St James’ with Danny Simpson’s future still in doubt.
The former Lille midfielder has started all three of France’s Euro warm up games and could pull the strings for Laurent Blanc’s young offensive unit. In a recent interview with FourFourTwo, Yo explained that his time at Newcastle has boosted his performances for the national side:
“Newcastle don’t have a single easy game. Each weekend is incredibly difficult, home or away. When I go back for the national team, I feel that gives me an advantage. This season has really helped me to become stronger, mentally and physically.”
Fingers crossed a successful tournament can return the favour, pushing his club performance to the next level, without attracting a big money bid. We can all hope.
A product of the Clairefontaine academy, Ben Arfa has represented his country at every age level but has had to wait for Euro 2012 to make his senior tournament debut. ‘Lé Wizard’ impressed against Iceland last week, starting in front of Debuchy, with the full-back bagging himself a goal. With Lille valuing Debuchy around £8 million, Pardew needs to conduct business before it’s too late in order to sure up his back four for European football. Pards is within touching distance of sealing the move of Erik Pieters, and the prospect of Debuchy and Pieters running the flanks on Tyneside together is enough to wet any fan’s appetite.
Although Dutch target Pieters is to miss the tournament due to his second foot injury of the season, Pardew and his team will continue to keep a close eye on the Oranje, specifically out-of-favour Barcelona man, Ibrahim Afellay. Believe what you will of online rumours, but the Dutchman only racked up five games last season due to a knee injury and Barca are keen to cash in on the 26-year-old, who is rumoured to have captured interest from Newcastle and Arsenal. Under contract with the Catalans until 2015, Afellay could leave the Nou Camp for around a bargain £6 million. That is unless he attracts more attention playing an important role for one of the tournament tipped sides.
Afellay’s compatriot, Krul has battled alongside Swansea’s Michel Vorm for the post of Maarten Stekelenburg’s understudy on the Netherlands bench. With Krul only holding two caps to his name (compared to Stekelenburg’s 40 and Vorm’s nine), chances are slim that he will get a start in the Euros. However, after helping push the Magpies back into Europe, don’t be surprised if the Dutchman makes a decisive appearance in the tournament’s group of death.
Pardew will also continue to keep a close eye on highly-rated striker Luuk de Jong, as he joins the Netherland’s campaign. The FC Twente front-man bagged 25 goals last season and has been on Newcastle’s radar for around two years. It’s unlikely that de Jong will start ahead of of Van Persie, Robben or Huntelaar, but he could be used by van Marwijk as the perfect impact sub.
Naturally, Coming out of the Euros with Krul, Cabaye and Ben Arfa unscathed will be high on the agenda for both club and fans. As with any major international tournament, the interest and price-tag of Pardew’s targets may rise and become harder to attract to Tyneside.
Then again, competing against Manchester United after Euro 96 we broke the bank to bring Shearer home, splashing out a then record breaking fee of £15million for Big Al. Times have undoubtedly changed. However, many fans were surprised when Ashley dipped into his pockets to buy Pappiss Cisse, so it’s not to say he won’t do it again come July.