As the winger indicates he may need to leave St James' Park for regular first-team football, has he ever lived up to the hype...even for 90 minutes?
Gabriel Obertan was only 17 when he made his debut for Bordeaux. Prior to that, he had trained at the world-famous Clairefontaine academy – finishing school for the great and the good of French football.
While many of his early appearances for Bordeaux were from the bench, his talent was undeniable. A winger with pace to burn and the confidence and ability to beat any opponent, it was no surprise when clubs from abroad started to take notice.
While Sir Alex Ferguson revealed he had been tracking Obertan for a number of seasons, Blanc said the player would have to “overcome psychological and mental challenges if he is to express his true value.”
Alas, at United he did not, and in 2011 he moved to Newcastle United on a five-year-deal, with manager Alan Pardew saying at the time, “He has great pace and excellent technique.”
And yet Magpies fans have only seen those traits in glimpses, with the Frenchman now revealing he may move on in January in an effort to play more games.
Speaking to the Shields Gazette about a possible future away from St James’ Park, Obertan said, “Everything is possible. I will see what’s going on until December, and I’ll see what’s best for me and the club.
“I can’t obviously keep on being on the bench and not being involved.”
Obertan’s interview sent me to YouTube, where I watched a highlights reel of his early performances in France. And quite simply, the player I saw in no way resembled the one I have seen in the Premier League.
Where in France he attacked with intent, using his lightening pace and bursting into the area almost at will, in England he has been little more than a broken box of tricks.
That early form prompted him to win caps at every level for France from under-16 to under-21. And yet he has since stagnated, and the words of Blanc when Obertan first moved to United are prophetic with the benefit of hindsight:
“It is an unexpected chance for him to play for one of the best clubs in the world. They certainly hope to advance him, which is something Bordeaux and Lorient failed to do.”
So as the Frenchman’s time at Newcastle appears to be drawing to a close, I have just one question for Magpies fans: Has Gabriel Obertan ever had a good game for their club, or does he simply not have what it takes to live up to the long-forgotten hype?
image: © nyaa birdies perch