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Papiss Cisse says Rafa Benitez arrived too late and he never wanted to leave Newcastle United

2 years ago

Papiss Cisse was a character.

On the pitch he divided his time between scoring goals and straying offside.

Off the pitch, he also had any number of interesting incidents whilst at Newcastle United.

Talk about extremes…

In his first half season at Newcastle, Papiss Cisse scored 13 goals in his opening 14 Premier League appearances.

In the remaining 103 PL appearances he managed 24.

If Papiss had kept up his first four months worth of form he would have been a club legend, instead I suppose he as ended up being a bit of an NUFC cult hero.

Remembered for scoring spectacular goals, rather than a lot of goals.

In a new interview with The Athletic, Papiss Cisse has reminisced about his time at Newcastle United, ‘the best team I’ve ever played in’…

Not necessarily to justify the far lower strike rate he experienced in the next four seasons but the reality was he could never have kept up that 2012 form from when he first came off the bench against Villa for his Newcastle debut (although he did arrive after an impressive 37 Bundesliga goals from only 62 starts for Freiburg (plus three sub appearances).

Matty Longstaff grabbed the headlines last weekend and Papiss Cisse’s was just as spectacular, Cisse scoring the winner to start a remarkable scoring sequence.

He was key to the run to fifth place in 2011/12 with 13 goals in 13 PL starts (plus that Villa sub appearance), when playing in a forward trio with Ba and Ben Arfa, then Cabaye, Tiote and Jonas supporting them, it was easily the best team NUFC have had under Mike Ashley and one that he shamefully failed to build on at the end of that breakthrough season.

With Papiss Cisse, every goal seemed to be stunning in those early months and none more so than numbers 11 and 12, Cisse telling The Athletic:

“I’ve scored over 160 goals in my career, for teams in five countries, and this is the only one people ever talk about. This is my identity, this goal. They never talk about the first that night, which I loved: Davide Santon gave me the ball just inside the box and I had a split second to control and finish with my second touch, right into the top corner. They never mention that, probably because, after that second one, the first looked like a more ‘normal’ goal.

“There is a film crew coming to our training ground this afternoon who want me to recreate the famous goal, but I’ve told them this can happen only once. Never again. So if I miss, it’s not a big thing.” For the record, and just as he had predicted, balls apparently flew everywhere but in.

I’ve always though that, his first goal at Stamford Bridge on 2 May 2012 was arguably even better than the second one in so many ways. That outrageous second goal was so…outrageous but the first was so technically brilliant.

A few brief extracts from an excellent long Papiss Cisse interview with The Athletic:

Arriving at Newcastle United:

“I built on that in those first months at Newcastle in the best team I’ve ever played in, so the way I started at the club wasn’t a surprise. I arrived in the best frame of mind. Every time I saw the ball fly into the box, I knew I’d enjoy it. English football is box to box. Nobody waits… I love that fast game, and everything happens in that penalty area. My domain. That is where I am king.”

Rafa Benitez arrived too late:

“Under [John] Carver and [Steve] McClaren, it didn’t go in a good way. Maybe there was too much change. The mood was down. The confidence was down. We tried, but we could not lift it. When [Rafael] Benitez came, it was a little bit late. If he’d come two months before, we’d have been fine. We’d have been safe.”

After relegation:

“I wanted to stay, honestly, to help bring the club back, but I had a year left on my contract and the offer from China was good for the club. When they accepted the bid, that felt like the moment to go. But Newcastle will always be in my heart. Always.”

Learning the language:

“Back in my hometown of Sedhiou I did not go to school for long, but travel has helped my education. Speaking new languages, too. I only started learning English right at the end of my time at school. We had a teacher who would walk into the class and announce, in a very posh accent: ‘Hello, good morning everybody. My name is Mr Lopi.’ He was speaking like a gentleman. We’d all burst out laughing.

“I saw him in Dakar when I went home at the end of one of the seasons at Newcastle and he told me he had watched me on television: not in the game, but doing an interview after the match. ‘This is my student. When he was young, every time he heard a ball hitting the wall outside, he’d run out of class and play. It was terrible.’ But he was proud of my English when he heard me speaking on the television. So proud.”

You can get access to the full interview here at The Athletic.


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