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The £177m Arsenal star trio that Newcastle United failed to buy for £30m

2 years ago

Arsenal had long been the dominant force when it came to mining the French market for new recruits.

Arsene Wenger with his wealth of experience and contacts, making any number of excellent signings.

Not all of them proved to be a success but overall the plan worked like a dream.

Not only did so many of them prove to be such very very good players in the Premier League, the prices they were bought at were often stunning value for money.

However, Arsenal suddenly found they had a rival.

Mike Ashley making Graham Carr his main man and giving the head scout the responsibility for choosing signings, whilst managers/head coaches were given no authority apart from to train and choose the team.

Carr’s/Ashley’s plan became crystal clear, the overwhelming majority of signings were from France, mainly Ligue 1 but occasionally even dipping into Ligue 2.

Quite amazing how many French internationals (either already having played for France or set to do so in the future) Newcastle recruited: Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye, Moussa Sissoko, Florian Thauvin, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Mathieu Debuchy and Remy Cabella. NUFC also signed Loic Remy but he was a loan from QPR.

No wonder Newcastle made headlines in France.

However, like anything positive that Mike Ashley accidentally stumbles across, it ends up in eventual disaster, as there is no real overall ambition or any desire to have a framework and strategy in place to bring lasting success to St James Park.

As well as those listed above, Newcastle United were repeatedly linked with certain other Ligue 1 players but failed to pay what was necessary. Players identified at a young age but Mike Ashley instead going for cheaper alternatives, the end result being that a decent number of players who Newcastle definitely appeared to have genuine interest in, ended up progressing in both ability and valuation.

Which brings us to the star trio Arsenal now have up front.

A trio that cost them £177m:

£72m Nicolas Pepe (signed 1 August 2019)

£57m Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (signed 31 January 2018)

£48m Alexandre Lacazette (signed 5 July 2017)

Searching back through The Mag archives throws up some interesting ‘what ifs’…

On 28 December 2016 we first reported NUFC interest in Nicolas Pepe, who at the time was a raw 21 year old talent playing for Angers in Ligue 1.

The winger only made 11 Ligue 1 starts that season and scored only three goals but whilst Newcastle wouldn’t pay the necessary, Lille stumped up £9m. Last season he scored 22 league goals from the wing for Lille and Arsenal have just given the Frenc club a £63m profit.

On 10 April 2014 we first reported on NUFC interest in Alexandre Lacazette.

Back then he was 22 and just starting to blossom for Lyon, only three league goals the year before, in 2013/14 he managed 15 goals. However, with no Champions League money to come the following season, Lyon were ready to accept £10m for the up and coming striker – but Newcastle stepped back and instead went for the cheaper option of £6m Emmanuel Riviere.

The next season Lacazette scored 27 Ligue 1 goals and his valuation went in the same direction, eventually Arsenal paying that £48m in 2017 as he continued to score and progress season after season.

The 26 January 2013 saw us first report on Newcastle interest in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

He was 23 back then and playing for St Etienne, he’d scored 10 goals the previous season and was showing signs of progression. when Newcastle’s interest was first reported in France, he had scored 8 Ligue 1 goal by late January and ended up scoring 19 in total that season.

Newcastle were reported to have offered £9m but St Etienne wanted £11m. Newcastle wouldn’t pay the asking price and a few months later Aubameyang moved in July 2013 to Borussia Dortmund for…£11m.

A lot of goals later, Arsenal paid £57m for him in January 2018, a profit of £46m for Dortmund.

Obviously football clubs are linked with a lot of players but these three were all repeatedly linked by various French media and there definitely appeared to be serious interest and attempts to buy them, only a failure to go the extra mile stopping NUFC from signing them.

Arsenal paid £177m for this trio but Newcastle could have had the lot for £30m back in the day.

With 22 year old Allan Saint-Maximin set to sign imminently from Nice and attempts to sign PSG’s 18 year old Moussa Sissako and 20 year old Stanley N’Soki, there certainly appears to be clear signs of a return to concentrating on the French market for young up and coming players with potential increased value in the future.

Maybe back in the Graham Carr peak years of his power, Newcastle United maybe didn’t go far enough when it came to showing ambition in the French market.

Not saying this definitely is or isn’t the way to go and it doesn’t change the fact that this transfer window has been a ridiculous and chaotic farce, of failing to get enough signings in so far and certainly not early enough, with only now six days until transfer deadline.

However, with the willingness to pay the alleged £40m fee for Joelinton from the Bundesliga, interesting to see if Allan Saint-Maximin is only the first of a new stead flow of signings from France once again, plus will Mike Ashley be prepared to go the extra mile on real emerging talent when he can see cheaper alternatives elsewhere?


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