Allan Saint-Maximin's revealing Newcastle United statement as he opens up on future
The Newcastle United winger started the season determined to force his way into the France squad ahead of the World Cup in Qatar – and he was doing everything right.
But an early-season injury, which came after an impressive performance against Premier League champions Manchester City and a stunning goal against Wolverhampton Wanderers, ended Saint-Maximin’s hopes of a call-up.
The 25-year-old was then a frustrated spectator club, which is third in the Premier League ahead of the domestic restart, as he went through another painstaking rehabilitation process.
“It’s been a very difficult time for me, because you can see I put in a lot of work during pre-season to be able to come back fit and to be the best I can,” said Saint-Maximin, who is preparing for tomorrow’s friendly against Real Vallecano at St James’s Park.
Best game yet
“I started very well, I did a great game against Manchester City – it was one of the best games I’ve played for Newcastle.
“And, just after that, we were losing 1-0 against Wolves, and I scored a nice goal to get a draw for the team. It was a very good and important moment for me, but afterwards it was a bad moment, because I felt pain in my hamstring.
“It was a very difficult time for me, because always, when you see the team play well, you want to be able to help them. I’m the type of player that when I get this type of injury, there’s a lot of work to do. If I come back and do any sprint, anything can happen."
Saint-Maximin, signed from Nice in the summer of 2019 when Steve Bruce was head coach, suffered a setback on his comeback in early October, and by the time he returned again at the end of the month, the club was fourth in the Premier League.
“I tried to take as much time as possible – and make the right decision,” said a relaxed Saint-Maximin, speaking in the lobby of United’s team hotel in Saudi Arabia last week.
“Obviously, it was easier to make that decision, because the team was winning.
"When you are in a rush, or there’s a chance the team might go down, or the team really needs you, you try to rush and do things differently.
“It was very good to come back in a healthy team. I was very proud of every single player – Jacob Murphy, Miggy (Almiron). I’m so happy for him, because he’s a great person – and a great player. He really deserves what has happened to him now. I hope I will be able to help him score even more goals.”
The World Cup break has given Saint-Maximin time to work on his fitness, though it was tough for him mentally given that he may have been in Qatar had it not been for an injury.
“It was a very, very hard time for me mentally,” said Saint-Maximin. “I have my job in Newcastle, but I always had in my mind the World Cup with the French team as well.
"When you start like this, and after you get the injury, and you try everything to be able to come back, but you know if you come back too early you can pick up a bigger injury.
“It was very, very difficult, but I had the support of my family at that time. Now, I start to feel much better. I will not say the break came at a great time, but I feel better, I work very hard during the break, and it’s given me even more days to recover. Now, I’m ready to give my best for the team.”
Saint-Maximin is close to a number of France’s players, including Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele and Marcus Thuram.
Didier Deschamps’ side – who beat England at the quarter-final stage – take on Argentina in the final in Doha on Sunday.
Asked if he had been watching the tournament with mixed emotions, Saint-Maximin said: “When you are religious, like me, you just want the best for everyone.
"Even if I’m not in the squad, I’m very happy, because I have a lot of friends there – Kylian, Ousmane, Marcus Thuram. I’m really happy for them, but, for sure, when you think can be there, and maybe have the chance to win the World Cup, it’s something big.
"It’s painful, especially when you start the season like that.
“When you start the season like that, and you play great against one of the best teams in the world, Manchester City, and you score again and have a very good feeling, and the injury happens, it’s very difficult mentally.
"I put in a lot of work to be able to be in the best position with my body and everything to be able to help the team. It is difficult and harder when you have the World Cup goal in your mind.”
Saint-Maximin, happy on and off the pitch on Tyneside, believes he can realise his international ambitions with Newcastle, a club finally on the up after years of relegation battles, having matured as a player at St James’s Park.
“Not many people know my story,” said Saint-Maximin. “I never had an easy time when I just play with very good players always, or was in a healthy club to put me in the best situation possible.
"The first time that has happened is in Newcastle. You can see a huge difference between the player I was in France – and the player I am in Newcastle.
"Anything can happen in Newcastle, I’ll never forget that. It’s very important for me – the club and supporters will always stay in my heart.”