Moussa Sissoko has had a tortured relationship with the Newcastle fans.
Supporters finding it difficult to believe that it is the same player who looked such a world beater when first arriving at St James Park, that home debut where Sissoko scored twice in a 3-2 win over Chelsea as well as giving Ashley Cole five yards start and leaving him for dust.
However, Rafa Benitez has no doubts, or at least that is what he is saying in public…
The Manager has clearly desperately been trying to build up the fragile confidence of the players since he replaced Steve McClaren, with the likes of Sissoko one of the prime targets.
Whilst supporters appeared to see him as having no more than an average game according to the results of our fan player ratings, Benitez was gushing about the French international after Newcastle beat Swansea 3-0.
Rafa called him a ‘great player’ and ones that ‘others have to follow’.
Maybe the biggest problem for so many Newcastle fans is the apparent lack of an end product week after week, though on the other hand you have to also accept that since Yohan Cabaye departed, having nobody to make the team tick and bring out the best in others has been a major problem. Jonjo Shelvey suggested he could be the answer when he starred in home wins against West Ham and West Brom – under Rafa Benitez that can undoubtedly still be the case if we can all somehow get through this season without disaster…
When playing for France, Moussa Sissoko is more of a worker ant who allows those with more ability on the ball to do their stuff, whilst at Newcastle I think everybody still wonders exactly where he should be playing on the pitch (if at all…).
Rafa Benitez sees Sissoko as ‘very influential’ and a leader for others, with five games left it looks as though the former Toulouse player will be leading the team in this relegation struggle.
Benitez showed on Saturday that he isn’t afraid of making big decisions that go against expectations, trusting Moussa Sissoko to lead the team may prove to be his biggest gamble yet:
“I am really pleased with him (Moussa Sissoko) because since I came here, the only thing I can say is that he has been really good in terms of his work on the pitch. The things he is trying to do in the training sessions and also the relationships that he has with a lot of the players.
“He is someone that they see as a very influential player with a lot of our French players and I think it is important, because he is so good that he has confidence. It is a boost for him as well as the team.
“We have a lot of players who talk French, so then you need someone like him who is a big name for them and that they can see he is a good player…a great player.
“If he is performing and working as hard as he has been, then the others have to follow him.”