Tonight was a very emotional night in Lille. The Champions managed to see off Rennes 3-2 – Moussa Sow with his third hat-trick of the season which saw the Senegalese striker pick up the Trophee du Meilleur Buteur for Ligue 1’s top scorer. Near the end of the game midfielder Yohan Cabaye was replaced by Stephane Dumont. This wasn’t due to a bad performance or a tactical decision it was a chance for Cabaye to say his goodbyes.
After the celebrations Rudi Garcia confirmed to the media that Yohan Cabaye had informed his teammates on Saturday that he had agreed to sign for Newcastle United. The rumours of a move had been around for quite a while but nothing was known as concrete, the scenes when Cabaye’s number appeared on the board announced his departure to everyone. Every Lille player on the pitch made sure to hug Cabaye before he left the pitch. This was a well-liked player receiving a heroes goodbye.
Starting his career at Tourcoing FC as a 5-year old he joined Lille’s youth ranks when he was twelve. Playing his way through the ranks for club and country he broke into the first team squad in 2004 as Lille won the Inter-Toto Cup. Growing into Lille’s midfield Cabaye was a fixture as Lille stunned everyone by making the last 16 of the Champions League beating Milan 2-0 in the San Siro.
The contract with Newcastle has not been signed yet; Yohan is part of the 26-man France squad that will play against Belarus in a Euro 2012 qualifier and then two friendlies against Poland and Ukraine. Once those matches are out the way Cabaye will make his way to the North-East and finalise his move to become the newest member of the Toon Army.
To bring in a player of Cabaye’s quality for a fee as little as €5m is a great coop for Alan Pardew. In a midfield that could lose Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan but contains the talents of Cheikh Tiote and Hatem Ben Arfa what does Cabaye bring to this talented side. With the abilities that Yohan possesses it wouldn’t be strange to see a few of around €8m-10m but a release clause in his contract mean Newcastle have got themselves a bargain.
Over the last six years Cabaye has gone from a combative midfielder and developed into a very talented box to box midfielder. His main attributes are his vision and passing abilities. He packs a wonderful right foot and has been known to find the net with some excellent free-kicks and penalties.
The main criticism of Cabaye’s game would be a lack of goals although he has only managed four this season it was only 12 months ago the former France U21 captain found the net 15 times and created a further ten goals for his team making it his most productive season.
Whereas he may not have scored or created as many goals this season for Les Dogues his teamwork and excellent mentality have been one of the major reasons behind Lille’s excellent season. When Laurent Blanc took over Les Bleus after the World Cup Cabaye was one of the players called up to Blanc’s new look squad and although he is not a first choice pick there is no reason he couldn’t force his way into a 23-man squad for Euro 2012. Whether the move to Newcastle will help or hinder his chances in the National Team remain to be seen.
It is a transfer that seems to have confused and surprised a few people. For the player it seems to make perfect sense. He has won the league and cup double with his boyhood club and back in 2006 he reached the last 16 of the Champions League with Lille – what else is left for him to achieve in France. Questions over why he would move to Newcastle can only be answered by the player himself but in the North-East he has the chance to command a place in the starting eleven and help bring the club forward becoming a fans favourite in the process.
Only time will tell if this was the right move for the player. Not everyone adapts and performs well in a different league and environment. Ligue 1 players usually take the transition well to life in the Premier League. And although it is sad that we will never again see Cabaye in his number 7 Lille jersey. The mind is filled with excitement to see him pull on the Black and White of Newcastle.
Every Lille fan will wish Yohan all the best for his new adventure. If for some reason the move doesn’t work out anyone that has watched him in Ligue 1 will tell you it will not be due to a lack of talent or desire.
Au Revoir Yohan.