Newcastle United’s most expensive January signing during a mid-season trolleybus was a senior international on Arsenal’s radar who had made a name for himself in France. Sounds familiar? Well, Bruno Guimaraes simply followed in the footsteps of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, who joined the club under remarkably similar circumstances nine years earlier.
Unlike BrunoOf course, Yanga-Mbiwa didn’t become the toast of Tyneside, but it’s easy to forget the hit that was considered the move in the aftermath. newcastle he paid just £6.7m for a defender who had captained Montpellier to the Ligue 1 title a few months earlier. So was it any wonder the 23-year-old was appointed as Newcastle skipper? by Fabrizio Coloccini long-term successor?
However, to reach that potential, Yanga-Mbiwa would not only have to adapt to the pace and physicality of the Premier League, but also quickly adapt to a new environment, as the centre-back tried himself abroad for the first time as a footballer. . That first day in training camp certainly gave Yanga-Mbiwa a taste of what was to come in January 2013.
“It was difficult because I came from the south of France, where the heat is very good, and in Newcastle it was totally different,” he told ChronicleLive. “Sometimes, I used to cry. Not just me, but a couple of other people too. It was funny. I opened the window and didn’t see the sun for about three or four days. It was snowing!”
“Also, now I speak English and I understand it, but when I was there, when people spoke to me in geordie, it was like Chinese! The first time it was strange, but when you started to know them, you just loved them because they gave you love, they gave you all.
“Even when I was walking down the street or shopping, I would see the fans. It was fun talking to them. When you talk to a Newcastle fan, believe me, in the next two minutes, there will be maybe 50 or 60.” behind you. It’s because they love football.”
Some of these well-wishers even wore blue, white and red berets and face paint during the so-called “Day of France” in St James’ Park a few weeks later to welcome Yanga-Mbiwa and company as La Marseillaise blared over the system. public address and the tricolor flag was displayed on the East Stand before the match against Southampton. It was the height of the French Revolution on Tyneside and Yanga-Mbiwa did not have to look far to find a compatriot at the club.
Mathieu Debuchy, Yoan Gouffran, Massadio Haidara and Moussa Sissoko also arrived that January as part of a £17.7m mid-season splurge, while Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye, Sylvain Marveaux, Gabriel Obertan and Romain Amalfitano were already in the club books.
These people undoubtedly helped Yanga-Mbiwa settle in and the Frenchman still fondly remembers sharing a dressing room with a ‘top player’ like Ben Arfa and a midfielder like Cabaye, whom the centre-back considered ‘one of the best tactically’. However, in hindsight, you also have an idea why Yanga-Mbiwa felt that having so many francophones in the club at once was “perhaps too much”, even if he helped him personally.
“I was close to all of them,” he said. We are French, we travel, we hit and we have to do everything to be an example in the dressing room and achieve the English mentality.
“I spoke to one or two players, like Sylvain, before I came and they said: ‘It’s one of the best clubs in England, so you have to come. The stadium is always full. The fans come two or three hours before kick-off. match”. and spend an hour or two after the game. When you win the derby, they talk about it for maybe a month. Everything is awesome”.
“If I was alone, it would have been more difficult. If it’s three, four or five of you, you can talk to them more easily because some of the others talked to Geordie and it wasn’t easy.”
The timing of the move to Newcastle came as a surprise to Yanga-Mbiwa, but the defender had been working with his own personal trainer for three months in an effort to try and prepare for life in the Premier League, each time he moved.
However, within minutes of his debut against Aston Villa, the newcomer realized that nothing could have prepared him for what was to come.
“That first minute was totally different,” he said. “The speed, everything, was tough. Even the contact with the players and the referee was just saying: ‘Play!’ I would say that?!’ You had to have this fighting spirit.”
The weather didn’t necessarily help in that regard and there were some difficult afternoons in Yanga-Mbiwa’s only full campaign at the club the following season, whether it was a red card against Liverpool or being substituted at half-time for defeats at the club. Everton and Southampton. Yanga-Mbiwa’s confidence understandably suffered.
Alan Pardew never seemed confident in the defender’s heading ability compared to the other options at his disposal, namely Fabricio Coloccini, Steven Taylor and Mike Williamson, and Yanga-Mbiwa found himself playing out of position on a number of occasions. Although Yanga-Mbiwa thought Pardew was a ‘good manager’, clearly that still hurts.
“I was too honest and he told me: ‘You’re going to play’ and he put me at left back or right back,” he said. “During the preseason I was playing all the friendlies as a central defender and when we started the season he put me on the side and didn’t say anything.
“I would have preferred if he would have told me, ‘You don’t have the quality or the talent to play.’
“If you say: ‘You’re going to play’ and you put me at left back, right back or midfield, no, it’s not serious. Tell me the truth and I will do my best to give you the best answer. It’s soccer. You have your preferences. You have some players that you love more than others.”
Perhaps, then, it was no surprise that after less than two years on Tyneside, Yanga-Mbiwa was loaned out to Roma. Yanga-Mbiwa quickly became a key player for the Giallorossi that at that time he was playing in the Champions League, that the new arrival did not take long to activate a clause in his contract that made the signing definitive for the number of games he played.
After another season at Roma, Yanga-Mbiwa moved to Lyon, where he played again in Europe, before disappearing from football after not playing for some time to care for his family. Now 32, the free agent has his sights set on finishing his career in the Middle East, but will no doubt be keeping an eye on the fate of his former club. In fact, revealingly, Yanga-Mbiwa still regards his Newcastle spell as a “very good experience”.
“I still love Newcastle,” he added. “I still watch some Newcastle games. I still support Newcastle. When I see the stadium full today, something inside me gets emotional. It’s a good emotion.”