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Newcastle: Ginola, Cabaye, Ben Arfa, Boumsong… The 11th of the (many) French passing through St-James' Park

Switzerland, Brazil, Sweden… Newcastle is a mosaic of nationalities.

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Newcastle: Ginola, Cabaye, Ben Arfa, Boumsong… The 11th of the (many) French passing through St-James' Park

Switzerland, Brazil, Sweden… Newcastle is a mosaic of nationalities. However, the Parisians will not find any French players facing them this Tuesday (9 p.m.), at the Parc des Princes, for the fifth day of the Champions League. An incongruity in the history of the Magpies, fond of “froggies”, from David Ginola (1995-97) to Allan Saint-Maximin (2019-23). There are no less than thirty to have played at St-James' Park, including many players who played for PSG. Enough to make our 11 of the best French in Newcastle, a 4-4-2. “There was a special history between Newcastle and the French. I wouldn't really know how to explain it... In any case, in terms of human relations and welcome, they are warm people, with big hearts, who only want one thing, to make us feel good on the field in order to succeed for their club. As a Frenchman, if you have the right attitude, the right mentality, everything fits,” Yohan Cabaye recently underlined, for Canal. It stuck for some. Less for others…

Not many choices in this position: Lionel Perez is the only French goalkeeper to have played for Newcastle. And again, the former Nîmes, Laval and Bordeaux goalkeeper has never actually kept the Toons' goals. Recruited in 1998, after two years at Sunderland, he only sat on the bench seven times in the 1998-99 season before going out on loan and leaving the club in 2000. He subsequently continued in lower division clubs in England.

Also read Newcastle-PSG: who are the 12 players who have worn the jersey of both clubs?

On the right, we chose Mathieu Debuchy, rather than Laurent Charvet (1998-2000) for example. The former Lille player had only spent one season at Newcastle, in 2013-14, enough to convince Arsenal recruiters to look for him. On the left, ex-Lyonnais Olivier Bernard, no less than 145 matches (6 goals) with the English club, between 2000 and 2007, could clearly have found his place. We favored a former Parisian, Didier Domi (1999-2001), with his 70 matches (4 goals) in the north of England before returning to the Parc des Princes. “French culture began with our generation. Ruud Gullit took Alain Gomas, Frank Dumas, there was already Laurent Charvet... There were good players and that continued over time,” remembers Domi.

In the axis, Franck Dumas (1999-2000), Sylvain Dystin (2001-02), Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (2013-14) and especially Florian Lejeune (2017-20) passed through St-James' Park. However, we focused on two internationals, Alain Goma (1999-2001, 41 matches) and Jean-Alain Boumsong (2005-06, 59 matches).

A line of four for our midfielder, two recoverers and two crazy dribblers. In the middle, the Moussa Sissoko / Yohan Cabaye tandem very logically imposes itself. The first played 133 matches between 2013 and 2016, scoring 13 goals. The second spent three good years there, with 93 matches and 13 goals. A major player at the time, before returning to France and signing… for PSG. “It was a moment in my life and my career that counted, my first experience abroad,” he remembers for Canal. It went very well, I had extraordinary times there, only good memories.” Romain Amalfitano (2012-13), Rémy Cabella (2014-15) and Sylvain Marveaux (2011-16) have had less impact on the history of Newcastle. Note Antoine Sibierski's good season in 2006-07 (39 matches, 8 goals).

On the sides, two players who have remained in the hearts of the fans, starting with the last Frenchman to have worn the colors of Newcastle, Allan Saint-Maximin, transferred to Saudi Arabia last summer. 13 goals in 124 matches for him who arrived in 2019 from Nice. A player apart for the supporters, but not as much as Hatem Ben Arfa. Initially loaned by OM in 2010, the wisp on the magical left paw was transferred the following winter. He often capsized the stadium with his brilliant shots... before the downgrading, the sidelining decreed by coach Alan Pardew, the loan to Hull City (2014) and his contract termination to join Nice, in 2015. Like the career of “HBA”, which has never been a long, quiet river… 86 matches and 14 goals to his credit.

In a normal world, Stéphane Guivarc'h should have been part of this 11 of the best French people in Newcastle. Except that the striker of the Blues, world champions in 1998, didn't really have the same success with the Magpies as he did under the colors of AJ Auxerre... Far from it! He only played four small matches in four short months, for one goal, before moving to Glasgow Rangers. Failure also there for Louis Saha (1999) and Florian Thauvin (2015). Loïc Rémy (27 matches, 14 goals) and of course Yoan Gouffran (141 matches, 19 goals) could have found a place in our selection. Charles N'Zogbia (154 matches, 10 goals) too. Having relegated Saint-Maximin and Ben Arfa to the middle, we had the opportunity to associate Laurent Robert and David Ginola up front, two left-handers, two former Parisians.

The first wore the colors of the Toons between 2001 and 2006, he is Newcastle's top French scorer (32 goals in 181 matches). The second is the pioneer, the first French player expatriated to St-James Park (1995-97). 76 matches and 7 goals for “El Magnifico”. A source of inspiration for many others, like Fabrice Pancrate, who also played at both clubs: “As a child, I had the poster of Ginola when he played at Newcastle in my room. Arsenal was my favorite club in England, but Newcastle was there too. There was Ginola, and others after, like Laurent Robert. It was the flagship club in my eyes,” he told us before the first leg.

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