GABRIEL Obertan will this morning be unveiled as Newcastle United’s fifth signing of the summer.
The winger is set to join from Manchester United after passing a medical on Tyneside yesterday.
In keeping with all of the Magpies’ additions this summer, Obertan speaks French.
The former Bordeaux player has failed to impress since moving to Manchester United two years ago.
He signed weeks after Cristiano Ronaldo left for Real Madrid, a heavy burden on a player who cost around £77m less. He was never expected to replace the Portuguese, but he nevertheless moves to Tyneside with his potential unfulfilled.
He could now be seen as a replacement for Joey Barton, and although this would also be wrong, he will in part compensate for the loss of the Merseysider’s crosses should he be moved on in the coming weeks. The two are, though, completely different players – one a central midfielder who did a job on the right, the other a genuine winger who can play on either flank or down the middle. It is as a winger, though, that Obertan sees himself.
Barton has not left Newcastle, and has hinted he may not before the transfer window shuts on August 31, but Pardew needs to plan without him after the 28-year-old was put on the transfer list for one criticism too many of the club’s hierarchy, both in the dressing room and, more damagingly, on Twitter.
One of manager Alan Pardew’s main aims this summer was to add more pace to a team which at times looked pedestrian in the last campaign. The 22-year-old certainly fills that criteria.
A graduate of the famous Clairefontaine Academy, Obertan has represented France at every level from Under-16 to Under-21, but is yet to win a senior cap. His addition will mean Pardew has three wingers at his disposal, all of whom can play on either flank.
Jonás Gutiérrez remains, while former French Under-21 international Sylvain Marveaux has joined from Rennes.
Compatriots Yohan Cabaye and development player Mehdi Abeid have also moved to St James’ Park this summer, along with Demba Ba – a French-born Senegal international.
French playmaker Hatem Ben Arfa joined 12 months ago, along with Ivorian Cheik Tioté, another whose first language is French.
There could be more to come, with left-back Cheikh M’Bengue – also a French-born Senegal international – one of those under consideration if, as expected, José Enrique leaves this summer.
Newcastle’s scouts have clearly built good contacts in the country, which they have identified as a good market for bargains.
Obertan first caught the eye of the Manchester United scouts when he was named Most Valuable Player at the 2009 Toulon Tournament.
He also came recommended by their former centre-back Laurent Blanc, then his manager at Bordeaux, now in charge of the French national team.
It was potential he was never able to fulfil, though that was hardly surprising, given the surplus of quality wingers at Old Trafford.
With even Portugal star Nani unable to get into Sir Alex Ferguson’s strongest starting XI by the end of last season, Obertan made just 14 Premier League appearances in his time with the Red Devils.
Only four came from the start. This summer’s arrival of Ashley Young only worsened his slim prospects of football this season.
His final appearance was a dismal showing in the Manchester giants’ 1-0 FA Cup win over Crawley Town, a game where the then-non-League side came perilously close to embarrassing their second-string hosts. That was February 19, and he did not pull on the shirt in a competitive game again.
He did, though, have an encouraging pre-season, scoring in a 7-0 win over Seattle Sounders. Newcastle were also touring the United States at the time.
Obertan must enjoy playing in America, having scored on the club’s tour there the previous summer.
His only competitive goal for the club came in a 3-0 away win over Bursaspor in the Champions League last season.