Back in the summer of 2012, Mathieu Debuchy had just been named in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year after a superb season for Lille which earned him a place in France’s 23-man squad for the European Championships. Manager Laurent Blanc trusted Debuchy, still a relatively unknown talent despite winning a league and cup double for Lille a year earlier, as his first choice right-back in Poland and Ukraine and he again impressed as Les Blues fell to Spain in the quarter-finals.
Against England in France’s opening game he was impressive enough to earn the plaudits, but Mike Ashley, Newcastle United’s parsimonious owner, took a lot more convincing despite his club’s interest.
Being a close friend of Yohan Cabaye, chief scout Graham Carr and managing director Derek Llambias had seen enough to prepare a 5-year deal for the right-back who was then aged 26, but Ashley’s miserly hesitations took control. Deterred by a possible lack of sell on value it took another 6 months for Ashley to part from his money, sanctioning a £5.5 million deal the following January.
18 months later and Ashley will at least see some profit on the 28 year old who looks set to head to Arsenal as a replacement for the outgoing Bacary Sagna. £8 million is the suggestedfee for the defender who has just returned from Brazil where France reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup with Debuchy chosen ahead of Sagna to be Didier Deschamps’s first choice.
Manager Arsene Wenger has also reportedly tracked Juanfran, who has signed a contract extension with Atletico Madrid, and Toulouse’s 21 year old Serge Aurier with Wenger said to favour the fact Debuchy has already assimilated into the Premier League.
Debuchy departs Newcastle having made 46 appearances for a club that could not quite match his ambitions for a return to European football. The possible turning point coming in January when Cabaye was sold to PSG after the midfielder netted 2 goals in a 3-0 win at Crystal Palace to position Newcastle sixth at Christmas.
The Magpies won just 6 of their 21 games post-Cabaye and now Debuchy looks set to follow his best man out of the north-east to re-join the glitz of the Champions League.
Known for his own thrift in the transfer market, it is obvious to see where Wenger sees the value in a move for Debuchy who is 3 years Sagna’s junior. He will offer more of an attacking presence than his predecessor who was known for his reserved nature on the right-flank but he is also adept defensively, recording more interceptions (69 to 51), successful tackles (71 to 45) and blocks (12 to 7) than Sagna last season.
Debuchy, perhaps inconsistent when compared to Sagna’s dependability, also created more chances and registered more assists despite making 6 less appearances than his fellow Frenchman.
His arrival will be welcomed by exciting times at the Emirates with the transfer coinciding with Arsenal’s lucrative partnership with kit manufacturer Puma which is likely to arm the club with the financial muscle that has recently hamstrungthem when trying to compete with wealthier rivals.
Deals for Lars Bender of Bayer Leverkusen and Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez have also been rumoured as Wenger aims to build on the major watershed moment that was May’s FA Cup win. Debuchy, at 28 and approaching his prime, will bring unassuming nous and ability to a squad about to embark on a pivotal season.
As for the club he has left behind, Alan Pardew has had some restrictions lifted as Siem De Jong has been captured from Ajax for £7.6 million but it remains to be seen if Ashley, whose signing of £1.9 million of Ayoze Perez from Tenerife was his first transfer outlay for 16 months, grants another sum for his manager to replace Debuchy.
It is indeed saddening to see Newcastle fans take to social media to abuse the right-back for leaving for London, perhaps their ire would be better directed at those who keep the club shackled and leave it to stagnate, leaving players no other choice but to use St James’ Park as a stepping stone to better things.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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