Talking Points returns with an article looking at Frenchman Allan Saint-Maximin.
Making the Move
Saint-Maximin made his start to professional football in his native France, coming through the youth ranks at Saint Etienne, before heading to AS Monaco. The move to Monaco did not go as planned, with ASM spending a year on loan at German club at Hannover, and another year away in the French second division with Bastia.
The move which did forge the Frenchman’s career was the transfer to Nice. Completing the switch at the start of the 2017/18 season, Saint-Maximin spent 2 years at the club, racking up 9 goals in 64 appearances while demonstrating flashes of phenomenal flair and pace.
In the most recent transfer window, Steve Bruce gave the go-ahead to a deal worth £16.5 million to bring the Frenchman to the Premier League.
When ASM made the move to the North East, there were immediate likenings made to former Newcastle United attackers who had also performed well in Ligue 1, but simply could not adapt to English football.
Remy Cabella was bought in to replace the departed Yohan Cabaye but failed to live up to expectation, the Frenchman was simply too lightweight for the league. He did not offer the precise passing of Cabaye, but did not possess the speed or technical ability to run at defenders either. Thauvin on the other hand seemed like he had potential to make it in the Premier League, but the attitude aspect of his game was not there.
Add to these examples of similar players not making a stamp in black and white, the fact that Rafa Benitez had previously declined the opportunity to bring the Frenchman to the club during his tenure added more questions to the signing.
The Risk Paid Off
With all this being said, ASM has proved to be an absolutely astute signing. His combination of pace, power and flair have lit up, not just St James Park, but the whole of the Premier League. Add to that, the renowned Gucci headbands and backflipping celebrations and you have one of the most entertaining players Newcastle United have seen in a long time.
Like of all our front three, we had to wait a while for Saint-Maximin’s first goal, but that wasn’t a huge worry when he was contributing in other ways on the pitch.
The last minute inswinging cross to Isaac Hayden saw us snatch a dramatic last minute winner when Chelsea visited.
Following this, the header away at then 5th placed Sheffield United, helped the Toon Army to a welcome 3 points on the road. In a match which Andy Carroll was expected to pose the main aerial threat, ASM popped up in the box to head Newcastle ahead, before Jonjo Shelvey played to the whistle and added a second to Newcastle’s tally.
More important goals followed for the Frenchman, who can forget the added time winner which saw us land our first FA Cup quarter final in years?
The attacker picked up the ball deep in Oxford’s half before sprinting at the tired backline and cutting infield. The Oxford players had witnessed the Frenchman do this a few times previously in the match and were perhaps fortunate to not suffer earlier on in the game, but in this attempt deep into extra time, ASM made them pay. He unleashed a rocket of a strike flying past the blocking attempts of the defenders, and out of reach for the keeper.
Back in action in the Premier League, and ASM was back on the scoresheet against Southampton. With the Saints down to 10 men early on, Newcastle struggled to breakdown their resolute defense. This was until Saint-Maximin displayed his pace and determination, nicking the ball of their young fullback before calmly slotting under the onrushing keeper, earning the Magpies another 3 points in the process.
It has not just been the Frenchman’s attacking outlay that has impressed me during his career in the North East, his desire to help track back for the team has really surprised me. I believe Benitez decided against bring the Frenchman to the club earlier due to doubts over his attitude and workrate, but this has not been the case in the slightest.
Keeping Hold of ASM
The most problematic part of Saint-Maximin’s Newcastle United career so far seems to be ensuring he remains on Tyneside. Admittedly the 23 year old contract with the club runs until 2025, his performances will naturally attract interest from other clubs. In a recent Twitter Poll, 292 of you voted, with 85% tipping ASM as being our current most valuable player in terms of transfer value.
With this in mind, I do hope we get to see ASM on Tyneside for an extended period. His flair brings excitement to SJP, and I just hope pound signs do not light up Mike Ashley’s eyes when offers inevitably flown in.
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