Optimism surrounding Newcastle United is at an inexplicable, arcane high. Despite the club’s painful relegation to English football’s second-tier just one month ago, the widely-heralded appointment of Rafael Benitez has breathed fresh life into the club’s previously disenchanted fans; with season ticket purchases rocketing and the Toon Army eagerly anticipating the revered Spanish tactician’s bold new era on Tyneside.
However, despite the conspicuous sense of change surrounding all things black and white at the moment, one thing remains – Moussa Sissoko’s flummoxing illusions of grandeur and burning desire to jump ship at the first opportunity.
Yes, you guessed it, the Magpies’ wantaway no.7 has once again sung like a canary to the French media ahead of his impending participation in this summer’s European Championships for Les Bleus; stating in no uncertain terms that he wants to bring his three-and-a-half year stint at St James’ Park to an end, with North London giants Arsenal being cited as his preferred destination.
To any keen follower of Newcastle, news of Sissoko’s recent outburst will come as no great surprise given his track record of conducting subversive interviews with his home press, however, to anyone who watched the Frenchman start 37 of United’s 38 Premier League games last season, the content of his latest shameful come-and-get-me plea does make for a humorous read.
Sissoko proclaims that he has ‘given his all’ for the Magpies since his bargain £1.5million switch from Ligue 1 side Toulouse in January 2013, and feels that, in order to continue his ‘development’, it is imperative that he secures a move to a Champions League side in the near future, with The Championship seemingly viewed as a division he believes he is simply too good to play in.
Now, there is nothing wrong with ambition in football – or in any walk of life for that matter – but for an individual to make such unabashed, brazen statements you would like to assume that they were regularly walking the walk as well as talking the talk, but, for Sissoko, this simply has not been the case.
When the 6ft 2 powerhouse broke onto the scene with the Magpies deep in the relegation mire back in 2013, it looked as though chief scout Graham Carr had once again come up trumps in the transfer market at just the right time.
The Frenchman’s maiden Newcastle bow at Villa Park caught the eye, as he patrolled the middle of the park with boundless energy levels and powerful intent, and he soon followed that up with one of the most spectacular St James’ Park debuts in the Premier League era, grabbing two stunning goals during a breathtaking, all-action display to lead United to a thrilling 3-2 victory over Chelsea.
However, from that point on, for reasons unknown, Sissoko did not kick on.
Many put it down to former manager Alan Pardew’s propensity to stick the strapping 26-year-old out wide, but moving the powerful midfielder inside in attempts to coax him back into form failed miserably, and fans grew increasingly perplexed at how such an impressive, athletic specimen could continuously fail to make any form of contribution that slightly resembled the pronounced impact he made during his honeymoon period with the club.
The initial buzz that surrounded Sissoko after his barnstorming arrival in English football soon began to dissipate and, as time went by and his mask began to slip, the Magpies’ faithful gradually began to question the former Toulouse man’s attitude and desire.
On too many occasions the Frenchman went missing when the going got tough; bottling tackles, cheaply surrendering possession, showing no passion or emotion when his side conceded goals or lost games, and avoiding any form of responsibility out on the pitch.
This is an established French international, with all the raw physical tools to develop into a midfield powerhouse in the mould of his fellow countrymen Patrick Vieira or Emmanuel Petit, but, unfortunately, the corporeal features Sissoko was inherently blessed with do not match up to his empty head or his pea-sized heart.
It speaks volumes that in each of the no.7’s three full seasons with United, the club have lingered at the foot of the table; flirting with relegation on two occasions and ultimately suffering our second relegation in seven years as the curtain closed on the 2015/16 campaign.
Now, it would be wholly unreasonable to label Sissoko as the sole reason for Newcastle’s struggles over the past three seasons, and his shortcomings are just one of the many factors that led to our eventual demise last month, but it is hard not to harbour utter contempt for the 26-year-old when he repeatedly fails to show a modicum of respect for the club or its long-suffering fans.
Going as far to retweet a headline that translates to ‘Sissoko – I want to leave Newcastle’ from both of his personal social media accounts was the final nail in the coffin for many United fans who have watched the lily-livered midfielder, who genuinely believes he is a world-beater, produce a maximum of five or six good performances per calendar year.
So Moussa, although you won’t read this, I wish you the best of luck at the European Championships. I hope you surpass the grand tally of one goal you amassed for us last season, I hope your lung-bursting gallops into blind alleys see you stumble into the opposition area with great regularity, and I hope that, at the end of it all, a club is imprudent enough to stump up the £15million+ it will take for us to move you on and make a tidy profit.
On your day you are a force to be reckoned with, there’s no doubting that, but those days arrive once in a blue moon and, with an attitude and mentality like yours, I seriously doubt that will ever change.
August marks the start of a fresh, new era on Tyneside, and I sincerely hope that you are not a part of it.