With one more week of the transfer window to go, some clubs are still yet to make their move. Will Arsenal put that dusty cheque-book away following their 5-1 win over West Ham? Will Spurs make a late dash for Lewis Holtby given the injury to Sandro? And are there any players left in France for QPR to try and beat Newcastle to signing? Here are my thoughts on two France internationals who have moved to England this month:
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (Montpellier to Newcastle, €8m):
So much for the power of contracts. Montpellier captain Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa signed a new deal as recently as last November, taking him through until June 2015. That was because he was in the last year of his deal, and the French champions risked losing him for nothing in the summer. A poor first half of the season, in which Montpellier finished bottom of their debut Champions League group, convinced president Louis Nicollin that now is the time to sell, though the transfer-fee of €8m is a bargain for a French international who captained his side to the Ligue 1 title aged 22.
Montpellier rejected a concrete offer from AC Milan last summer for Yanga-Mbiwa, because they wanted to lose only one player (top scorer Olivier Giroud, to Arsenal) before their European campaign. His reaction was a mature one: “I took it well because I had experienced a similar situation one year earlier, when Lille wanted me,” Yanga-Mbiwa told L’Equipe. “I found it hard to stay then, but with hindsight, I know that if I’m good, clubs will come back for me. There’s no point saying this could have happened or that should have happened.”
Instead of fighting for Champions League places in Italy, Yanga-Mbiwa will be thrust straight into a fight to stave off relegation, much to the disgust of Nicollin. “If he chooses Newcastle, then he’s an idiot,” said the president, not normally known for his diplomacy. “Newcastle, this is really not a good choice. They will transfer him next year. It doesn’t bother me. We’re not going to cry. He is not irreplaceable. The important thing is that we get money.”
His arrival, and the possible one of Moussa Sissoko from Toulouse, added to Yoann Gouffran (from Bordeaux) and Massadio Haidara (from Nancy) seems a direct response to Hatem Ben Arfa’s interview with beINSport last week, when he urged the club to show ambition. “If there’s no ambition then I’d prefer to leave and compete for trophies. But if there’s ambition at Newcastle and they sign players, then why not stay?” he said, dropping in the fact that Arsenal and Chelsea both made inquiries about him last summer.
Yanga-Mbiwa is an excellent signing but Nicollin could be right: Newcastle will do well to hold onto him in the summer. Even if they choose to sell, they are sure to make a healthy profit.
Loic Remy (Marseille to QPR, €8m):
Ask a Newcastle fan about Loic Remy and he will point to the Frenchman’s record of one goal in his 14 Ligue 1 appearances this season, and the six months at the end of last season which he spent on the sidelines with three separate injuries. Ask a QPR fan and he will point to Remy’s 17 France caps, 15 then 12 goals for Marseille in the last two seasons, and his skills at FIFA 2012, in which beat owner Tony Fernandes (he was playing as Bayern, Fernandes as Argentina).
Neither will probably mention that great intangible of football, and indeed of any sport, on which it’s almost impossible to put a value: confidence. Remy himself has admitted that when he has it, he looks a different player and one thing is sure: he lost it at Marseille.
The southern French club is a tricky place to be at the best of times, but even more so when you are out of favour. Once Remy was fully fit, he was still overlooked and that knocked his confidence further. Marseille recognised that he had value and, needing funds, put him up for sale.
“My profile as a player is that when I’ve got a small problem, things become difficult,” he admitted to RMC Radio in October. “When I’m 100% I can do very good things. But when there’s something not right in my head, something bothering me, then it becomes a bit difficult. We know there are players who are strong mentally…[but] that’s not my case.”
A goal on debut against West Ham will help that confidence. He also claimed the fact Harry Redknapp tried to sign him last season when he was at Spurs (Marseille rejected a €20m offer 12 months ago), and not a bigger salary deal, convinced him to join QPR. Redknapp can at times be a master-motivator but Remy’s goal reminded me of one striker who only last season was expert at breaking offside traps and scoring: Djibril Cisse (now out on loan at Al-Gharafa in Qatar).
Redknapp missed out on signing Rennes midfielder Yann M’Vila, who joined Rubin Kazan, and looks set to miss out on Etienne Capoue and Moussa Sissoko (who could be off to, respectively, Everton and Newcastle, who seem to be doing QPR’s scouting for them). All play in the same holding midfield position, where QPR already have Alejandro Faurlin, Stephane M’Bia, Samba Diakite, Shaun Derry, Esteban Granero and Park Ji-Sung. We know Redknapp does not like to be called a wheeler and dealer, but it would be nice to see him work with what he has. That might give those players some confidence too.