I can remember that Moussa Sissoko home debut very well. What a day that was. I left the ground purring and in jubilant mood. We had a world class player on our hands, or so I thought.
Chelsea were the visitors. It was the deep mid-winter of 2013, and what we witnessed was a scintillating show of power, pace and finishing.
Sissoko, who had just arrived from Tolouse for £2m, tore Chelsea to ribbons as Newcastle edged the game 3-2 after Demba Ba (newly arrived at Stamford Bridge after a January move) went off with an almost comical broken nose.
Moussa scored twice to wrap up a vital win for that Alan Pardew team. His 68th minute leveller capped off by a winner in stoppage time. The scenes were, well, wild to say the least.
The future looked bright with a player like him in the side. He could only get better.
What happened over the next three years left much of that early promise in tatters.
He simply never scored enough goals from midfield and went missing in games for weeks and weeks on end.
Was this the player’s fault or that of the coaches foisted upon him at St James’ Park?
Working for Pardew was clearly enjoyable at first but I have every reason to suspect that Moussa was well and truly ‘Pardewed’. When AP jumped ship for Palace the opportunity to get a better manager was missed and they made him work under none other than John Carver. I bet a few instructions were lost in translation there.
To add insult to injury, Sissoko then found himself under the stewardship of Steve McClaren. Now just because he’s from France doesn’t mean he won’t have been aware of Mac’s many failures, not least with England and the Wally with the Brolly incident.
By the time someone at Newcastle United had finally woken up and decided they needed a proper manager, with control over decisions, Sissoko’s relationship with the club was broken. Even the arrival of Benitez failed to really change the scenario. He was in one almighty Le Sulk, bigger than anything thrown at us by Ben Arfa or Laurent Robert. The Gallic temperament always gets found out when the chips are down, especially in English football.
I don’t want this to read as some sort of disclaimer for Moussa Sissoko though – the player is just as much to blame as the hapless coaches he had to work for.
Another factor to consider is Sissoko’s selection for the French squad. Players get theirs heads turned at these international get togethers and he’ll have been told he could bag more coin and a Champions League club, which is what has happened with the move to Spurs.
The problem is that Sissoko isn’t as good as he thinks he is. Far from it. He can run down blind alleys, is profligate with possession, and shirks challenges when they are needed. If his head drops he’s basically a passenger. Geordies are thankful he was decent at the Euros so that his transfer stock remained high at the age of 27 and hitting his prime.
Tottenham may be able to get more out of him with a fresh start and Pochettino’s undoubted coaching abilities, but I do wonder if this move will end in another super sulk.
Of all the high profile sales down the Mike Ashley years this is one I’m least bothered about. Yes it may sting when he does well for Spurs, but this bloke’s conduct in the final months were nothing short of a disgrace. He even managed to shaft Everton on deadline day.
All that promise and joy on his debut was very short-lived. The bad memories of Sissoko far outweigh the good ones.
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