Against the auspices of the more Francophobic among us, I thought I would take a look at this unique association between The Toon and the chaps across the pond, with a selection of whom I think are Newcastle United’s five best ever French signings.
5) Olivier Bernard, signed on a free transfer from Lyon in 2000
Bernard was perhaps understated in Bobby Robson’s tenure. His effective partnership with fellow countryman Laurent Robert on the left flank helped Newcastle to Champions League football in successive seasons and he wasn’t shy of going forward either, scoring some important and memorable goals.
4) Hatem Ben Arfa, signed for £5million from Marseille in 2011
While Alan Pardew’s comparison to Lionel Messi after a game at West Brom two years ago may have been said with his tongue firmly in cheek, there is no denying the winger’s guile and dribbling are on par with some of the best in the premier league – when he can be arsed of course. Quick, nimble and ostentatiously flamboyant, Ben Arfa represents a throwback to a Keegan-esque mentality of football. He is at times overly extravagant and loses possession, but when he doesn’t, no Geordie can begrudge the ticket price.
3) Laurent Robert, signed for £9.5million from PSG in 2001
Laurent Robert did not score a bad goal. The ball could be dead (he was a free kick master) or very much alive (volleys were not outside of his repertoire), but the midfielder never ceased to amaze. His bizarre gesture to strip naked at the end of his contract also immortalized his cult status among fans.
2) Yohan Cabaye, signed for £5million from Lille in 2011
Cabaye is the consummate professional. A natural leader on the pitch and a gentleman off it, the man labeled Dreamboat by Toon fans, symbolizes a calm and collected control in midfield. His passing is precise, his set pieces are exquisite and despite all the interest in his signature, he has never indicated he wants to leave – let’s just hope Ashley doesn’t want to cash in.
1) David Ginola, signed for £2.5million from PSG in 1995
Nicknamed David Copperfield by some of the Geordie faithful, Ginola was a magician. Shearer’s apprentice with his crossing and a sorcerer in his own right with his goals, the Frenchman was a catalyst in the Keegan era. Ginola epitomized The Entertainers and although he may have gone on to do more with Tottenham, no Geordie will ever forget THAT goal against that team no one can pronounce.