MOUSSA Sissoko is the ‘Rolls Royce’ midfielder who can accelerate Newcastle United’s escape from the Premier League relegation fight.
That is the firmly-held belief of a United hierarchy who believe they might just have pulled off the best bit of business of the Mike Ashley era in nicking Sissoko – a player who welcomes comparisons to Patrick Vieira – for less than £2m.
It is remarkable business and a significant coup – with one influential observer from the across the Channel hailing him as a ‘Rolls Royce’ midfielder capable of making an immediate impact in the Premier League.
His capture has boss Alan Pardew and United’s busy recruitment team purring with delight, and at his first media engagement on Saturday morning, it is easy to see why.
Sissoko might not yet converse in English, but he still managed to come across well to the smattering of journalists who had heeded the early Press call. Confident, composed and answering queries with the sort of control that he has often shown on the field, he projected the kind of influence that might one day see him succeed Fabricio Coloccini as a Newcastle United captain.
No wonder United have offered him a six-and-a-half year deal. It was a long-term contract was sold to him on the idea that Newcastle can reassert themselves as regular challengers for the European slots – provided they get out of their current predicament.
“I think we can do well over the course of time,” he told The Journal.
“Obviously our priority and main objective at the moment is to get into a better position this season and to finish as high as we can. Looking ahead to next season and beyond, I think we need to try and finish as high as we possibly can.
“We should aim for qualification for the Europa League and even Champions League if we can. Why not try and go as far as possible in those competitions, too?
“In the long-term, I think Newcastle can become one of the best teams in England.
“I want to do that, that is why I came to England and it will be an exciting challenge for me to try and do this with Newcastle. I hope to add to this squad.”
Nothing illustrates United’s heavyweight status across the Channel quite as well as their pursuit of Sissoko, whose value was in eight figures less than six months ago.
He had busy agents trying to push him to Juventus, Roma, Milan, Bayer Leverkusen and some of the bigger names in the Premier League, too. Tottenham had earmarked him as a potential target when Harry Redknapp was in charge – hence a late move by QPR to try to replicate their audacious Loïc Rémy coup.
Sunderland were engaged too, if reports are to be believed. United, though, always seemed to have this one sewn up – as far back as last summer when plans were drawn up for the second phase of their French revolution.
So when the transfer appeared to be getting complicated at the start of the month, a call that The Journal made said it all. United, the source said, are the only team that he will sign for.
Even with the cream of Serie A calling, Newcastle’s pitch to his advisers had been professional, polished and absolutely certain about the central role that he would occupy in taking United on to the next level.
In short, they are speaking to the right men across the Channel. Influential figures like agent Pierre Frelot have clout – and there are others too, who prefer to operate in the shadows.
Sissoko had been convinced long before the latecomers, and when Newcastle indicated that they would like to do the deal now – the player did not hesitate. Sissoko confirmed as much.
He said: “When I heard that Newcastle was interested in me, I think that was the priority for me. Here at Newcastle everything is in place for me to succeed and obviously there are a lot of great first-team internationals here at the club.
“That’s a great thing for the club but it was also important for my decision-making process.
“Yes, other clubs showed interest in me, but for me I wanted to play in the Premier League and I wanted to come here and play for Newcastle.”
Sissoko has warranted comparisons with Vieira back home, and is happy to hear them.
“I am not going to say no to those comparisons!” he said.
“Patrick Vieira obviously had a fantastic career here in England and if I can replicate that it would be absolutely fantastic for me. Why not try to go one better, even? Obviously it is a pleasure to be compared to someone of his ilk but Patrick Vieira is Patrick Vieira – I’m Moussa Sissoko, we’re two different players.
“I will go out there and play my own game. I have set myself high objectives. I will go out there and give my very best: I want to get Newcastle out of this situation they’re in, finish as high as possible and hopefully do as well as I possibly can.”
Now all that is left is for Sissoko to prove his lofty reputation on the pitch. He says he is “100%” ready to be pitched into a relegation fight at Aston Villa tomorrow night and has no worries about shouldering the exaggerated expectations of the fans.
He said: “It is very flattering to hear that the supporters are excited about my signing. I’m happy that the supporters wanted me here so much.
“I will go out there, give it 100% of my effort and show exactly what I can do.”