Newcastle United: Florian Thauvin – the one that got away?
Florian Thauvin was named earlier this week as one of the world’s most promising talents so what went wrong on Tyneside?
Among the many published lists which assess the current balance of the footballing world, financial reports have become increasingly telling.
From Forbes’ annual list of the richest clubs to Deloitte’s Football Money League and insights into the world’s most valuable players from analytical bodies like the CIES Football Observatory, they provide us a certain voyeuristic glimpse into how the financial might within the beautiful game is stacked up.
One such report issued earlier this week released findings regarding the estimated market values of players in the top-five European leagues. Presented as the top 50 evolutions in player values since the beginning of the current season (September), there was an unexpected name nestled near the top.
The new Franck Ribéry
An increase of 38.4% has seen Florent Thauvin’s value soar from £38.9 million (€43.9 million) to £72.9 million (€82.3 million) over the last 7 months. This is the same player who failed to make any significant impact at Newcastle only two season’s ago.
He arrived on Tyneside as a highly-rated 22-year-old of which great things were expected. Thauvin was a left-footed winger who helped Corsican-based Bastia to promotion into Ligue 1 where he scored 10 goals and made 1 assist for them in their return to France’s top-flight.
This led to him claiming the Ligue 1 young player of the year award ahead of Marco Verratti in 2013 and thrust him squarely into the spotlight as a player to watch. With Arsenal and Newcastle reportedly interested in signing the youngster, Thauvin eventually signed for Olympique de Marseille for £12m (€15m) at the beginning of the next season.
A new hope
After two years playing at the Stade Velodrome, Thauvin made the move to the Premier League with a reported fee of £15 million (€17 million) paid by the Magpies. While he had failed to develop his game further with Marseille, he was still a player of plenty potential and perfectly fit the blueprint of Newcastle’s transfer policy at that time.
Having narrowly avoided relegation, Newcastle recruited four players that summer, all from European clubs and all players aged under 25.
Georginio Wijnaldum (24), Aleksandar Mitrovic (20) and Chancel Mbemba (20) all joined Thauvin (22) in making the move to the North-East.
This was seen at the time as a chance for the Frenchman to flourish and finally fulfil his potential. However, it proved anything but as Steve McClaren’s side would slip out of the top-flight at the end of this campaign.
Beyond a promising debut in the FA Cup against Northampton Town, the French winger quickly shrunk into the background at a club. There was also a good display from his Premier League debut at Old Trafford where he was a hair’s width from getting a goal, however, he rapidly deteriorated during the following matches and was quickly dropped from the first team by Steve McClaren.
With rumours that his girlfriend was unhappy in her new surroundings adding further to reports Thauvin was less than enamoured with a move away from a Marseille side who couldn’t afford to turn down Newcastle’s offer, the move looked increasingly like an awkward arrangement.
He and Mbemba also received further scorn from the local media in mid-September when they took McClaren’s advice to dress smartly when representing the club to dress in tuxedos prior to the match at West Ham.
This and lethargic performances all added to the perception of arrogance which he had cultivated after signing for Lille, a club he insisted was beneath him and his ambitions and who he never played for, forcing a move to Marseille instead.
Ultimately, Thauvin only started five matches for the Geordies and after only 6 months in England, he was loaned back to Marseille. An initial 6-month deal stretched to one and a half season’s on loan at his former club before making the move permanent for a fee believed to be around £5m less than his original switch between the two clubs.
With a depreciation of around £1m per starting appearance, there can be little doubt his time in the Premier League was an unmitigated disaster. From the ashes of this crash, however, the young winger has begun to rebuild his career.
A slow start to life back in Marseille was perhaps to be expected of a player bereft of confidence. The start of the 2016-17 season saw him explode back into form and he finished the season with 15 goals and 8 assists to his name having appeared in each of their 38 league games.
This season the resurgence has continued, toppling his previous season’s figures (with 16 goals and 10 assists) in only 28 league games. He also became only the third player across Europe’s top-five leagues to achieve double-digit figures in both goals and assists this season, behind Lionel Messi and Neymar.
This has, of course, seen his name linked with some of Europe’s top clubs, however, he seems happy and content with life in Southern France. With Les Olympiens currently in third-place in Ligue 1 with a 5-point cushion over Lyon, there’s a good chance he will see Champions League football next season – with the top-three French teams winning entry into the competition as of next season.
This is a stage which he always felt entitled to be playing in and could now finally be given the chance to do so as a key figure in his team.
Most Newcastle fans will baulk at the fee now tagged onto the player who failed to prove himself at St. James’. While it’s true that a player’s true value is only the amount a club is willing to pay for them, the over-inflated prices currently being paid across the sport supports the notion Thauvin will command a large fee on current form.
Whether he can prove himself in a more physical league than Ligue 1 is also something which will be interesting to watch in Europe next season.
With players such as Alexandre Lacazette and Serge Aurier largely falling flat after big-money moves last summer, there’s still an element of doubt regarding the true quality of players who dominate the top-heavy league.
What is certain, is Thauvin and Newcastle were a poor fit for each other. Given little to no support to adapt to his new surroundings, the 22-year-old was not shown any trust and his immaturity burnt any bridges back into the team. This mental aspect has arguably been his greatest development over the last two years.
While he remains on the periphery of the French national squad, his consistently high standards leave him an outside bet to go to Russia in the summer and he may well be given a stage to cement his current valuation in front of the watching world.
Is Florian Thauvin over-rated by the CIES Football Observatory? Let us know by commenting below.