Written by Kain Watson January has generally been a fortuitous month for Newcastle United in terms of recruitment in recent years. The January transfer window has seen The Magpies sign the likes of Papiss Cisse, Mathieu Debuchy, Moussa Sissoko, Yoann Gouffran and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa in the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons, respectively.
With Newcastle’s recent penchant for acquiring Ligue 1’s finest, it is no surprise that reports about interest from St. James’ Park in Rémy Cabella began to circulate at the dawn of the New Year.
The young Frenchman has by far and away been one of the brightest sparks in France’s top tier this campaign. Exactly the kind of player who would be embroiled in transfer speculations because of his age and ability, it was inevitable that Newcastle were likely to be linked with him due to their current tendency of buying talented Frenchmen.
However, it appears that the reported transfer link has more substance than mere media mischievousness. Montpellier president Laurent Nicollin recently confirmed he is expecting an official bid from Newcastle United, going on to say that he believed an offer was “on the verge” of being made, though he would prefer to keep Cabella at least until June.
However, encouragingly for Toon fans, Montpellier coach Rolland Corbis added that if the chairman decides a deal could be agreed for a January switch “(the deal) will be in January”. Both parties have an amicable transfer history with each other, as former club-captain Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa made the switch from Montpellier to Tyneside last January in an £8.5m deal, though rumours are that Nicollin wants in the region of £14m for his prized asset this time around.
So who exactly is Rémy Cabella?
Similarly to current Newcastle United centre back Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Rémy Cabella was a member of the Montpellier squad who won Le Championnat in the 2011/2012 season. At 23 years old, the former French under-21 international has established himself as one of the most accomplished prospects in the league with plenty of room to still develop. He is now recognised as a key member of the Montpellier team, being one of only two players to feature in every league game so far this term.
Lauded for his attacking capabilities, he plays primarily as a central attacking midfielder, though his technical proficiency allows him to be equally effective either side of a central position. The graphic below shows in which positions he’s created goalscoring chances from this season – of which he has registered 39 according to Squawka statistics. This figure is not only the highest in the Montpellier team, it also is more than any Newcastle United player has amassed thus far in the Premier League, surpassing Moussa Sissoko’s 37 chances created.
As the above graphic shows, Cabella is adept at creating chances from wide positions as well as his favoured central role. His guile and ability to pick a pass belies his years and it enables him to compete against elite opposition. He plays the 4th most key passes per game (2.3) in Ligue 1 behind only the likes of Mathieu Valbuena, James Rodriguez and Clement Chantome. In terms of comparing this with Premier League players, he plays the same number of key passes per game as Juan Mata and Samir Nasri, whilst Moussa Sissoko is Newcastle United’s top key passer with 1.9 key passes per game.
Aside from being a creative virtuoso, Cabella also likes a shot at goal. He has taken 33 shots and has a respectable 45% shooting accuracy, resulting in him leading the club’s goalscoring charts with a return of 6 goals from 18 appearances. Impressively, this is the joint-most that a midfielder has scored in Ligue 1 in the current season.
In terms of what Newcastle United currently posses in terms of a goal threat, Loïc Remy has fired off 39 shots, of which 51% were registered as being on target.
A brief look at these stats would imply that Cabella is the archetypal ‘number 10’; the link between midfield and attack that offers both a direct and indirect goal threat.
Indeed, when combining goals and assists, Rémy Cabella accounts for 9 of Montpellier’s 18 goals this league season; a massive 50% involvement. Consider Luis Suarez’s huge importance for Liverpool this season; he has been directly involved in 54% of their league goals. I’m not comparing Cabella to Suarez in terms of ability or style of play, but they share an objective, relative, similar importance to their respective teams.
When you account for the fact that Montpellier have only won twice all season and are currently sat just 3 points above the drop zone in17th place, the impressive nature of Cabella’s achievements really stands out. And just to exemplify how much the Frenchman’s individual brilliance is uninhibited by Montpellier’s lack of form, Rémy Cabella currently has the joint-most man of the match awards in Ligue 1 with Salomon Kalou. To be recognised as the single best player on the pitch in 30% of games surely puts into perspective just how talented this guy is.
A potential problem for Cabella may be his stature. Standing at a modest 5”8′ and possessing a slight frame, he may find the physical nature of the English game a little too demanding. Although Cabella is no stranger to receiving a foul – he’s Ligue 1’s most fouled player – the European game has a reputation for punishing the smallest of infringements. On the other hand, he has shown himself to be an asset when the opposition are in possession, winning a large percentage of his tackles and giving his team great support when defending from the front.
Signing Rémy Cabella would be a very astute move by Newcastle United and would be beneficial for all parties involved. For the player, he leaves a club fighting a relegation battle and comes to what is undoubtedly one of the best supported clubs in the world’s most well-known league. It’s the perfect platform for him to stake his claim for France’s World Cup squad.
For Newcastle, they sign one of the hottest prospects in French football with a Ligue 1 winner’s medal and the proven ability against elite opposition. Cabella’s movement and technical ability would be the perfect supplement to Loïc Remy’s clinical nature and it would solve the increasingly-frustrating conundrum of who partners the QPR loanee up top.
Shola Ameobi and Papiss Cisse are effectively on barren form and Hatem Ben Arfa is as mercurial as they come. The clueless rotation of all three does nothing but deprive the team of any consistency. Cabella would provide the aforementioned goal threat whilst also not shying away from his defensive duties, as seems to be the main justification for the omission of Hatem Ben Arfa.
From a logistical sense, signing Cabella would add to Newcastle’s ever-growing, ever-harmonising French contingent looking to challenge for a European qualification place. The Magpies would be seen as a genuinely viable option for future French superstars, essentially giving them an advantage in the French market.
Although the club made no permanent first-team signings in August, recently the January transfer window is where Newcastle unearth their gems. And in Cabella they could have a diamond.
What do you think?