Written by Matt Lawson (@MattLawson93)
He’s scored one of the best goals for Newcastle United in modern history, but Papiss Cisse’s time on Tyneside has been far from straightforward. With latest reports linking the Senegalese striker with a move away from St James’ Park, we break down his United career to date:
The Magpies threw a huge curveball when they announced the arrival of Cisse to St James’ Park in January 2012 – a window United are notoriously reluctant to do business in. Linking up with fellow countryman Demba Ba, the pair got off to the perfect start when they both netted against Aston Villa, with Cisse firing a sensational volley into the top corner on his debut.
His good form carried through until the end of the season, where he became the quickest player since Les Ferdinand to score five goals for United, as well as overtaking Hughie Gallacher as the club’s most prolific goals per game scorer of all time. Cisse’s ruthlessness in front of goal saw Newcastle finish in fifth place and above the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Everton. An Europa League campaign awaited the Magpies next season, with many people predicting big things for United
Out of position
While Cisse enjoyed a highly productive final five months of the 2011/12 campaign, the same couldn’t be said for Demba Ba, who only managed one goal after January. Having been shifted to the left of a three-pronged attack by manager Alan Pardew, the former West Ham striker demanded to be moved back centrally. He was granted his wish and eventually earned a move to Champions League winners Chelsea in January 2013, much to the disappointment of the fans.
Cisse struggled to adapt to his new role, scoring just two goals in the first four months of the season. However after Ba’s departure the Senegalese forward re-discovered some of goalscoring instinct, grabbing vital late goals in the league against Stoke and Fulham, as well as scoring in both legs of the Europa League quarter-final against Benfica. Domestically, United spent most of the season battling against relegation with the strain of Europe decimating an already small squad. Cisse finished on 13 goals for the Toon, however only eight of them came in the Premier League.
Wonga row/loss of form
After Newcastle announced the controversial payday loan company Wonga as their main shirt sponsor in the summer of 2013, Cisse became embroiled in a dispute with the club over religious grounds. The Muslim faith forbids the promotion of financial exploitation, resulting in Cisse requesting to wear unbranded training and match gear.
However, after pictures emerged of the former Freiburg striker allegedly gambling in a casino, Cisse agreed to wear the Wonga-branded kit. The 2013/14 season was one to forget for Cisse, with him playing second fiddle to loan arrival Loic Remy for the majority of the campaign. Cisse looked a shadow of the player who first burst onto the scene at St James’ Park, finishing with just two goals in 24 Premier League appearances.
When Remy unsurprisingly turned down joining United permanently in the summer of 2014, boss Pardew was forced into recalling Cisse back from the cold. After a transfer window which saw the club chase and spectacularly miss out on a host of striking targets, fans went into the season full of trepidation rather than hope.
Cisse’s first appearance in the Premier League came as a substitute against Hull having just recovered from a broken kneecap, with United 2-0 down. His late brace rescued a 2-2 draw and relieved some of the insufferable pressure on Pardew, who was forced to endure fans protest demanding for his resignation.
Eventually the former West Ham boss walked before he was shoved in January 2015 when he took over the reigns at Crystal Palace, leaving United in the relatively healthy position of mid-table. Meanwhile on the pitch, the Magpies were stuttering but Cisse’s upturn in form saw him bag nine league goals in his first 14 matches.
However, indiscipline would strike and a stupid off the ball elbow on Seamus Coleman earned him a three game suspension, before the infamous ‘spitgate’ incident involving Jonny Evans saw Cisse slapped with a massive seven match ban. During his absence, United nosedived at an alarming rate, suffering eight successive league defeats at the hands of caretaker manager John Carver.
Only a 2-0 home win to West Ham on the final day ensured Premier League survival for the Magpies – with midfielder Jonas Gutierrez putting in a heroic performance after recovering from testicular cancer. Cisse ended with 11 goals in 22 Premier League matches – United only scored 40 all season – and recorded the second highest minutes-per-goal ratio in the top flight, ahead of the likes of Sergio Aguero, Diego Costa and Harry Kane.
In a way, Cisse sums up Newcastle United in one player – capable of the sublime but also ridiculous in equal measure. With the club already light in the striking department, getting rid of the 30-year-old seems absurd, especially when last season he showed glimpses of what he can do with the right service.
However, this is where the problems lie – do United want to play to his strengths? Cisse thrives off balls in and around the six-yard box, not with his back 30-yards from goal. Personally, I feel finding him a partner who can hold the ball up and bring others into play is what United should be aiming for this summer.