A French winger moving to Tyneside with a bad reputation and questionable attitude butskills and ability that can leave fans drooling and full-baacks spinning.
For Florian Thauvin read Hatem Ben Arfa. Or even David Ginola and Laurent Robert if you want to go even further back.
The Newcastle new boy is following in some famous footsteps. From the moment Ginola quit Paris St Germain for St James’s Park with his reputation under a cloud following his part in France’s failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, Newcastle have had a fascination with bad boy Gallic wingers.
In the main, they’ve flourished on Tyneside. Ginola remains one of the greatest wingers to pull on a black and white shirt, while Robert’s penchant for eye-catching goals and assists helped propel Sir Bobby Robson’s side back into the Champions League.
Then there’s Ben Arfa, possibly the most talked-about player in the last decade at Newcastle.
Temperamental yet talented. A left-footer often better suited on the right, who polarised opinion among the Toon Army.
There are clear comparisons between Thauvin and Ben Arfa but they’re unfair, according to European football journalist Andy Brassell, who covers Ligue 1 and French football in some detail.
He’s surprised by the Magpies’ move for the Marseille man – especially at £14million.
“It’s a lot of money and I think it’s a real risk,” he said.
He’s not progressed enough in the last two years. There’s a player with talent in there and there’s always a coach who will think he can get it out of him but whether that’s Steve McClaren I don’t know.Andy Brassell
“They know Marseille would do a deal at a certain price. Marseille a looking to buy a striker and if they can get Cabella on loan for a year to play in the Payet role then they can use their money to get a forward.
“There’s a feeling in French football that the English are throwing their money around and they should take advantage of it.
“Thauvin has got a certain amount of talent. He can change pace, is extremely good on the ball, a great dribbler and will get comparisons with Hatem Ben Arfa. But to put him in the Ben Arfa bracket is too much.
“Hatem has won leagues and while he may have issues and not quite fulfil his potential, he will look back on that when he’s finished his career.
One thing the two players do have in common is a reputation for being difficult. Ben Arfa famously went on strike to secure a move from Lyon and the furore over Thauvin’s move to Marseille has seen him tarred with the same brush.
“When he first came into the top flight with Bastia he looked amazing, and Newcastle were scouting him. But Lille got there first and bought him for 2.5million Euros. He went back on loan to Bastia but then Marseille came in for him.
“Thauvin went on strike and refused to play for Lille. They eventually sold him for about a 10million Euros profit without him ever playing for them. It’s kind of how Ben Arfa got his reputation. The issue with Lille and Marseille got him a reputation for being difficult.”
Managers – and fans – can put up with mavericks as long as they deliver on the pitch. Thauvin, however, hasn’t delivered enough over the past couple of years, according to many observers of French football.
L’Equipe included him in their Worst XI of last season, based on their ratings over the campaign. Brassell described that as ‘harsh’ and a manifestation of how the 22-year-old is still perceived in the country after the way he went on over his last transfer. But it is also an indication of how the player has failed to live up to his early promise and expectation.
“Thauvin’s first season with Marseille was difficult but when Biesla came in he gave him the confidence and told him he was a main player,” Brassell added.
“However, Thauvin repaid that with a series of up and down form and when (manager Marcelo) Biesla had the temerity of hooking him in a game he didn’t react well and had a spat on the touchline.
“He’s not progressed enough in the last two years. There’s a player with talent in there and there’s always a coach who will think he can get it out of him but whether that’s Steve McClaren I don’t know.
“McClaren will have his own idea of how he wants to play. You don’t have the success he had in Dutch football without playing with wingers.
“I’d expect he wants Thauvin to provide service for Mitrovic but if he plays on the right he doesn’t always get the height on his crosses. I’d be tempted to play him on the left but wherever he plays, he needs to be more consistent.”
So is Thauvin better than Remy Cabella, the much-feted signing from Lyon last year who is returning to France on loan as part of the deal?
Brassell isn’t convinced.
“Thauvin has potential but I’ve seen nothing in the last three years to suggest he’s better than Cabella,” he said.
“Their pace is definitely different. Thauvin is really quick.
“I don’t think Newcastle looked after Cabella that well. Alan Pardew didn’t get him.
“You either play him on the left coming in, or off a No 9. He’s not the biggest and needs protection.
“But Marseille is a good move for him. I hope it works out for him and Thauvin.”