The love affair between Newcastle United and France could be over this summer as a host of players look set to leave the North-East
Next Monday, it will be a exactly one year since Newcastle United celebrated "French Day" at St James Park, in honour of the club's heavy contingent of players signed from across the Channel. Less than a year on and it looks like the bubble has burst, and the North-East could be set for a French exodus this summer, ending le charme d'amour between the Magpies and French football.
French Day was celebrated with an exciting 4-2 win over Southampton; four French players started the game, with another three on the bench. Moussa Sissoko and Yohan Cabaye were on the score sheet with former Metz forward, and French speaker Papiss Cisse scoring an absolute corker to give Newcastle a 2-1 lead. Even Southampton's Morgan Schneiderlin got into the party spirit by giving the Saints a 1-0 lead. The reality of the situation is that come the start of next season, only two of those seven French players could be playing their football at St James' Park.
Yohan Cabaye has already made his return to France, joining French Champions Paris Saint-Germain for around £19 million. Toon fans were furious that their star player was allowed to go so close to the end of the transfer window, but the player was determined to leave, swapping a season in mid-table to scoring PSG's fourth in the Champions League knock-out stage.
Cabaye's best-friend and former teammate at Newcastle and Lille, Mathieu Debuchy has been heavily linked with a move in recent weeks. Rumours that he would once again link up with Cabaye in Paris have been mentioned, but there has been apparent interest from Bayern Munich. After a slow start to his Premier League career, Debuchy's performances have improved this season, and as he cited Cabaye as one of the reasons for joining Alan Pardew's side, there is no reason to believe that he would jump at the chance to move on if Newcastle received a suitable bid this summer.
Another three players from Newcastle's squad that day look likely to move this summer. The futures of Gabriel Obertan and Sylvain Marveaux have often been questioned, and it is unlikely that either will stay around past the summer. Marveaux has been linked with moves to Spartak Moscow, Olympiakos and back to France with Nantes in the past 12 months, and this week the former Rennes winger has reportedly been asked to train with Newcastle's youth team. He may have two years left on his contract, but after only making six appearances, two of them starts, his days at the club look numbered.
After signing with high hopes last January, the future of central defender Mapou Yanga-M'Biwa looks increasingly bleak. After winning the French league title with Montpellier, he has struggled to find form under Pardew. From being played out of position, to looking very exposed under the Premier League spot-light, he has already been linked with a move back to France. Perhaps a return to Montpellier would suit all parties, although former boss René Girard would be keen to reunite with the 24-year-old at his new club Lille. Many fans can see that there is a good player there, but he just doesn't seem up to the pace and pressure of the Premier League.
The future of Hatem Ben Arfa also looks to be away from the Premier League. Alan Pardew looks to have lost patience with the former Lyon and Marseille playmaker. The 26-year-old only has one year left on his contract, making him a free-agent in the summer of 2015. Italian giants Inter Milan are set to be interested in making a bid for the Frenchman. If the price is right it would be a surprise if Newcastle didn't let the midfielder go during this summer. After being part of Laurent Blanc's squad for Euro 2012, he has since lost his place in the international set-up and needs to be playing consistently if he ever wants to play for his country again. It looks unlikely that he will get the game time he needs at Newcastle United.
Another French player that is unlikely to continue his career at St James' Park is top scorer Loic Remy. He is on loan from Queen's Park Rangers this season, and with apparent interest from Arsenal and Inter Milan, it looks like he will add to the list of Frenchmen leaving the club this summer.
This would potentially leave Alan Pardew with Moussa Sissoko, Yoan Gouffran and Massadio Haidara as the only French players at the club. There was a point last season when Newcastle could have played a starting XI full of French players, which will look a distant memory come the start of next season.
There is of course a chance that Pardew and Chief Scout Graham Carr will target a couple of French players as part of their summer transfer targets, but without European football and an unclear future surrounding the club it is unlikely that former targets Clement Grenier and Remy Cabella will be as interested to make the move to the North-East.
The signing of Yohan Cabaye was the move that sparked the influx of French imports, and the possibility is certainly there that it could spark a French exodus from Newcastle this summer.