When Newcastle signed Moussa Sissoko from Toulouse for a fee believed to be around £1.5 million in January 2013, Toon fans had plenty of reason to rejoice what appeared to be a real coup.
They were getting a proven performer in Ligue 1 and someone who had already forged his way into the French international reckoning. To top it all Newcastle had got the player for a fraction of his true worth and managed to tie Sissoko down to a 6 and a half year contract, which still has 3 years to run.
Of the abundant number of French signings Newcastle have made over the past few years, the signing of Sissoko has certainly paid off more than most. The Mali-born midfielder has been a regular fixture in the side since making his debut against Aston Villa and has made at least 34 Premier League starts in all 3 of his full seasons at St James’ Park.
His 3 and a half seasons on Tyneside have been a little mixed at times though and his number of appearances is perhaps more down to his versatility and capability of playing almost anywhere in midfield than his sheer brilliance.
This season is a good example of that. He has certainly been one of Newcastle’s most reliable performers this campaign and no other Toon player has started more Premier League games than him.
However throughout the campaign he has featured most prominently wide on the right but also at times on the left and as an attacking central midfielder and on one occasion as a holding midfielder.
Despite moving around so much, he is one of the few Newcastle players who would surely attract plenty of interest should the club fail to stay afloat. He is a player that clearly possesses Premier League quality and as 28 international caps in a strong French team would testify, Sissoko is a player not lacking in talent.
Even if Newcastle survive, he may feel it is time to move on with the north-east club now seemingly perennial strugglers. However doubts still remain over whether he is really good enough to step up to the level of an elite side competing in Europe and at the top end of the Premier League.
The problem for Sissoko is that it is still quite easy to pick flaws in his game and he hasn’t really kicked on as many might have thought he would. For starters his lack of goals for an attack-minded midfielder is a concern.
He’s netted only once this season and a record of 11 goals from 116 Premier League games highlights his inability to finish on a consistent basis.
He does create chances particularly with his crossing ability but he has been criticised for giving the ball away cheaply at times and is also prone to the odd lapse in concentration.
There may be some truth in the suggestion that Sissoko’s quality would become much more apparent in a better side but it’s hard to see him topping the shopping lists of European football’s elite clubs this summer due to the weak spots in his game that he has yet to fully address.
Mid-table chasers a better fit
The Frenchman is far too good a player to be spend the peak years of his career in the Championship though so a move would most likely come to fruition should Newcastle go down but it would more likely be to a mid-table Premier League side than a title-chasing one.
Written by Mark Sochon
Follow Mark on Twitter @tikitakagol
Check out his brilliant blog on all things La Liga, Tiki-Taka-Gol!
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