Is the love affair between Newcastle and France coming to an end?

French flag

Alexandre Lacazette’s transfer rejection may be a sign that it’s time for The Toon to shop elsewhere.

The Daily Mail reported on Tuesday that the 24-year-old Lyon striker snubbed the chance to join Newcastle after a £22 million bid was accepted by the Ligue 1 outfit. The story has since been rebuffed by the North-East club.

While most attribute the alleged rejection down to the fact the Magpies are battling against relegation, The Mail also suggested that the mixed success French imports have had on Tyneside was another major factor.

The rise of the French revolution

Under the guise of head scout Graham Carr, Newcastle plucked a then relatively unknown Yohan Cabaye from Lille in June 2011 for a bargain price.

While United had dabbled in the French market with the loan signing of Hatem Ben Arfa a year prior, Cabaye’s permanent transfer kick-started a love affair between the North-East club and France that resulted in 11 further permanent signings coming from across the English Channel.

Scout Carr dedicated his time to the French leagues and found an untapped source where quality players could be purchased at reasonable prices. With signings under the age of 26, Newcastle would be the club where potential could be filled and sold once achieved at a tidy profit.

The plan seemed to be working well at first, with Cabaye joining Paris Saint-Germain in January 2013 and former Lille team-mate Mathieu Debuchy leaving just a year and a half later for Arsenal for an equally good fee.

Another qualified success, Moussa Sissoko, purchased from Toulouse in 2013, was rumoured to be a £16 million target for Chelsea in the summer.

The failures

But, for every Cabaye, Debuchy, or Sissoko there has been a Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, an Emmanuel Riviere, or a Florian Thauvin.

All three came to Newcastle with masses of potential but failed to make an impact.

In January 2013, defender Yanga-Mbiwa arrived from Montpellier and was badly exposed in his time at the club. The physicality and pace of the Premier League bewildered the centre-back, who moved on loan to Roma for a season in 2014 before heading back to France with Lyon.

Striker Riviere was Monaco’s top scorer in the season before his transfer in the summer of 2014 - but managed a measly one league goal in 23 games. The 25-year-old has not appeared this season through injury.

Perhaps the pick of the bunch, however, Thauvin had a poor reputation at Marseille but Newcastle took the risk and signed him last September anyway. After an impressive debut against League Two Northampton, the lightweight winger is now almost exclusively on the subs bench after disastrous league displays. The 22-year-old is currently limited to cameo appearances and has yet to show any cutting edge to his game in the top flight - except for his tuxedos, of course.

Time to move on

These factors point to the fact the landscape of the transfer market has changed since Cabaye arrived on Tyneside in 2011.

The French market is no longer untapped and Newcastle’s slice of success has seen a rise in the number of Premier League and European clubs scouting Ligue 1 and 2 for the next rough diamond.

To counter this, Newcastle have slowly migrated north towards The Netherlands in an attempt to uncover a new market.

In recent seasons, the likes of Daryl Janmaat (Feyenoord), Vurnon Anita (Ajax) and Siem De Jong (Ajax) have joined with varying levels of success. Perhaps the biggest signing since Cabaye, PSV captain Georginio Wijnaldum made his way to Newcastle in the summer and has been touted as a future captain at St. James’ Park.

But, with such a convoluted English market, other clubs have also seen the potential of the Dutch leagues and that too is beginning to see a rise in transfer activity to the Premier League.

Soon it will be time for Newcastle to move on once again and, with Carr a trusted ally to owner Mike Ashley, expect his advice to be taken as he looks to unearth the next gold mine.

Whether Newcastle will continue with France going forward is yet to be seen - but it’s certain clubs such as Lyon are becoming wise to the Magpies’ act. The days of picking up the stars of Ligue 1 and 2 for next to nothing are certainly over.

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