When Newcastle were going through the motions to bring Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa to St James’ Park in January 2013, he was the title-winning captain of Montpellier.
Still just 23, he was also just scratching the surface with the French national team, looking to be one for the future for Les Bleus.
Yanga-Mbiwa only just missed out on making Laurent Blanc’s Euro 2012 squad and was earning call-ups for World Cup 2014 qualifiers – even starting twice.
But upon moving to Tyneside success fell by the wayside. Just a few weeks after completing his £8.5 million move to Newcastle, he sat on the bench for France in a friendly – it would be the last time he’d be available for Les Bleus for a while.
Things never went quite right for the ex-Montpellier man with the Magpies. Mistakes became a common part of his game as he struggled to adapt to the English game.
Meanwhile, being moved out of his favoured centre-back role to right-back proved a disaster for the Frenchman – he’s been vocal about where he prefers to play.
And just a year-and-a-half on from landing in Tyneside, Yanga-Mbiwa was on his way out in September. He joined Roma on loan, where he’s gone on to resurrect his career.
Upon signing with the capital club, the defender referred to his initial move to England as a “mistake”. Yanga-Mbiwa seems to have proven this statement correct in Italy.
With Leandro Castan and Davide Astori constantly out of the Giallorossi squad due to injury, he has been thrust into a starting role in Rome and taken the task head on.
The Frenchman has earned plaudits from the Italian press for his displays – at last returning to the national set-up last month as a replacement for the injured Laurent Koscielny.
And this time around Yanga-Mbiwa has been named directly to the squad for friendlies with Albania and Sweden later this month – keeping Mamadou Sakho and Jeremy Mathieu out of the side.
He told RMC of his call-up: “I am very happy to have been called, I will give my best if the coach sends me out onto the pitch.
“At Newcastle I was lost, there were too many clouds over me. It was a very complicated time, but now I’m back to my best.
Going to Serie A certainly has done the trick for Yanga-Mbiwa, with his switch to Newcastle in hindsight looking a misguided one, as results have shown.
Yet he’s flourished at Roma and reports have already claimed that the Giallorossi will look to keep him permanently, holding the option to do so for £4.5 million at the end of the season.
Staying at the Stadio Olimpico seems to be a priority of his at this point and one would be hard pressed to blame him considering how he’s turned things around there.