There are two certainties I can give about Yohan Cabaye. The first is that he will be remembered as one of the best midfield players to ever pull on a Toon shirt; indeed, his stunning goals and majestic passing range are enough to ensure that the Frenchman will be a stock figure in Geordie pub punditry for years to come.
The second is that he will not see out his contract with Newcastle. Although an initial bid of £14 million from PSG has been rejected, short of us defying the odds and snatching the fourth Champions League spot, there is little to keep Cabaye at the club beyond this season. With the Europa League far from a guaranteed consolation, I’m sure few would begrudge a player of his calibre wanting to test himself on a grander stage. Of course, it will be disappointing to see him leave, but as they say, every dark cloud has a silver lining.
If Newcastle’s reported £30 million valuation of Cabaye is met, this would represent nearly a 600% profit margin on his initial fee. Mike Ashley is a lot of things, but a bad businessman is not one of them; and we have seen him manipulate the market before, raking in £35 million for Andy Carroll back in 2011.
Still, I can appreciate why there is no groundswell to part with Cabaye – he is a fantastic talent after all, but to scoff at the sort of figures being discussed would be nothing short of imprudent. If Cabaye’s exit is a seeming inevitability, given the player’s reiterated desire to play in Europe’s elite competition, then the best thing Newcastle can do is make the most of a misguided market.
We live in a time where silly money is a distinct possibility and so sellers can name their price. Look at what Everton did with Marouane Fellaini.
However, while the decision to sell Cabaye might be brazenly good business, its impact on the pitch is more complex.
There’s a graphic doing the rounds on SkySports at the moment that reveals just how much of a difference Cabaye makes – of the 79 games Newcastle have played with the midfielder in the side, they have won 47%; of the 19 they played without him, they have lost 63%.
It is finding a suitable replacement that is the only bulwark in this deal. I would drive Cabaye to the airport myself if I knew that we were going to replace him with a marquee or two, but it’s at this point my previously acceptant pragmatism grows suspicious of Ashley’s parsimonious economics.
If Cabaye does go for £30 million, will we see any of that reinvested in the squad? Beyond Remy Cabella and raiding the arcane reaches of Alsace Loraine, will we buy proven, quality players in the same mould? If the answer is yes, then by all means let’s broker a deal.
As good as Cabaye is, he is ultimately just one player and will simply join the ranks of other Toon nearly men, canonized by the Gallowgate alongside Andy Cole in ‘oh what could have been.’ If the answer is no, we should expect stagnancy before any hint of stability under Ashley’s ownership.
Selling Cabaye and investing accordingly could be considered to be a masterstroke in the future; but selling him without making use of 600% worth of profit would signal the worst mistake the club has made since sacking Bobby Robson.