It was to be expected. After a failed £14m bid on Sunday, Paris Saint-Germain have agreed a deal with Newcastle United for Yohan Cabaye for around £20m. Laurent Blanc has got his man who he has been craving for since he took over. But, what implications will Cabaye’s arrival have?
First and foremost, the club are acquiring a home-grown talent. This is a big step, especially when you consider in past transfer windows the expenditure outlaid on foreign players. With a Frenchman now in charge of team affairs, he is incessant on having a strong home core to the squad. The arrival of Lucas Digne last summer was an indication of that thinking and I am sure the club would have loved to have kept Mamadou Sakho. Adrien Rabiot’s development at the club has been progressive and even the likes of Kingsley Coman and Hervin Ongenda are being nurtured for perhaps next season. So in that sense, it’s a good thing.
The injury to Rabiot could not have come at a worse time. The 18-year-old started three games on the bounce to the start of the year, even netting his first goal in the Coupe de la Ligue against Bordeaux. But that is where he injured his knee ligaments, putting him out of action for over a month. Had this injury not occurred, would Les Parisiens have still gone in for Cabaye? Difficult to say, but the Rabiot news made up Laurent Blanc’s mind that a body was needed. With Blaise Matuidi, Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti the only three recognised centre midfielders, you can see his thinking. But, Javier Pastore has played in the middle of the park and excelled this year. Having a free role as such to drift forward and interchange with the other two has complemented him brilliantly. Then Blanc went and put him out on the left-hand side at the weekend against Guingamp which just hindered him and the team more than anything. Even Marquinhos has been deployed as a defensive midfielder since the turn of the year – although only briefly in the 5-0 drubbing of Nantes – but that was a clear indication that cover was lacking in that field.
Rabiot’s future does worry me. He has had reservations about signing a new contract for a while now as he wants reassurances over playing time. He has had his fair share this season and performed. But the arrival of another central midfielder may just plant another seed of doubt in his mind. The important thing for him is to get fit again, and then take it from there. As for Pastore, it seemed as if there was light at the end of the tunnel for his career at the Parc des Princes. But you would think, his spell in a three man midfield is short lived. Being played out of position on the left-hand side last Saturday may have been as big a clue as any for Cabaye’s arrival. Why move a player who has performed in a position for the last few weeks, to an area of the pitch that alien to him? For me, it was Blanc looking to reposition him and see if he could take the mantle. Neither Ezequiel Lavezzi nor Lucas Moura has cemented that position so Pastore was given a crack there himself – although Carlo Ancelotti tried that with the Argentine during his tenure and it never worked out.
So what are we getting in Cabaye? A player at his peak, 28 years of age and has had nearly three fruitful seasons in England with a historic football club. He is worshipped on Tyneside but credit to their fans, they are not begrudging him the move. They will feel they have had the best years of Cabaye but from our point of view, he is being acquired at the peak of his powers. Technically gifted, nimble feet, tenacious and an eye for goal. He has all the credentials to be a useful member of the PSG roster. But, when Matuidi, Motta and Verratti are all fit, he faces a real stern test to acquire one of those central midfield spots. Matuidi and Motta have their positions cemented so it leaves a straight shootout with little Marco. Both are extremely similar and this could be a good thing. Blanc would not have to worry about fielding one or the other due to varied ability as it is vastly similar.
Ultimately, it was out of Mairalem Pjanic and Cabaye who the club wanted to invest in. Rabiot’s injury has forced our hand. It is an investment that will be a short term fix but remains to be seen how it pans out in the long run. With a three man central midfield that literally picks itself, it will be intriguing to see if Cabaye can break his way in. It will not be easy for him for either. From being one of the first names on Alan Pardew’s team sheet at St James’ Park, Cabaye will have to contend with being a squad player at the Parc. With five months to go to the FIFA World Cup, he may have preferred to wait until the summer. But, the sign of a top player is their character and Cabaye will need to show plenty of that if he is to be a success at the club.