Why did Allan Saint-Maximin make mystery COVID-lockdown trip to France? The Newcastle United view

It’s a journey that raises more questions than there are answers.

Monday, 15th March 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Monday, 15th March 2021, 2:06 pm

Was it to get specialist treatment? Was it to celebrate his birthday? Was it for some other non-football-related reason? Was it, although less likely, to fix up where he may be playing next season?

While Newcastle United fail to address this publicly, all of those questions remain hanging in the air.

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Allan Saint-Maximin of Newcastle United reacts after his goal is disallowed during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at St. James Park on February 27, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

And it’s a headache Steve Bruce, who has a real love-hate relationship with the player, director Lee Charnley and others, including those tasked with managing PR at the club, could really do without.

It has been confirmed to the Gazette, as reported, that Saint-Maximin flew to Nice last weekend, spending seven days on the continent, before returning to Newcastle yesterday.

The reason for the journey has not been confirmed, nor has the question as to whether Saint-Maximin must now quarantine as a result.

Saint-Maximin, sidelined with a groin injury suffered in the recent 1-1 draw with Wolves, celebrated his 24th birthday while out of the country.

Yesterday I asked these four specific questions of Newcastle United:

1. Did the club sanction this trip?

2. What was the nature of the trip?

3. Does ASM have to quarantine for five days, seven, ten or have you been able to secure an athlete exemption?

4. Will the club make any official comment?

As you can guess, the club refused to make any official comment.

However, it is understood they believe Saint-Maximin’s week-long break to the continent was not out of the ordinary, especially with the player ruled out for the immediate future with a groin problem. They do not believe he had a chance of making the Brighton and Hove Albion game on Saturday – Miguel Almiron might. Social media posts from fellow injured forwards Almiron and Callum Wilson are evidence they’ve been working as hard as possible to get back fit and out in black and white to help the club’s cause.

I’m told Saint-Maximin will now follow COVID rules and protocols. Newcastle United had to deny the player broke any of those once before, when he popped up in Sainsbury’s to do his post-France flight shopping in January, when many thought he should be self-isolating.

What are those protocols? That, the club will not confirm.

Is he required to quarantine for five days, seven, ten or even at all? It would certainly be an interesting decision to allow a player to immediately return to a COVID-safe, sport bubble at Benton so soon after being ushered off a plane at Newcastle airport, following seven days of possible mixing in a totally different country, don’t you think?

Questions must be asked.

Is it regular for someone to travel across borders in the current COVID-restricted climate? Is it ethical, if for non-football-related reasons?

Jurgen Klopp’s unfortunate situation recently highlights that even in the most extreme cases, including the death of a family member, does not guarantee passage across borders in Europe.

Is it merely coincidental ASM’s birthday fell while he was at ‘home’ in the south of France? It might be, but until that is confirmed speculation will grow.

If treatment and rehab was the reason – say at one of the player’s former clubs – could this have been done in the UK, even at Newcastle’s own training base? Plenty of other athletes, even those able to acquire special dispensations, have chosen to remain within their current confines, such is the gravity of the pandemic which has gripped the planet for more than 12 months now.

Also if the trip was for treatment or rehab then why would the club not confirm that? If they did, this situation becomes a non-story.

And if this were a club sanctioned journey, as they say it was, the player would surely have no issues returning to the UK? A journey abroad for treatment would be planned, organised and documented for, given the complexities of international travel at the moment, wouldn’t it?

Lots and lots of questions with so few answers.

The question, the real one, is when will ASM be fit again? With Newcastle United hurtling towards relegation from the Premier League, they need their best players out on the park. Saint-Maximin is undoubtedly one of those.

Whatever the reasons for his journey, whatever the fallout, United need to hope this trip has proven beneficial for ASM in his bid to get back out on the park, and not detrimental. Any delay caused by this journey has the power to prove life and death for Newcastle United’s Premier League season, such is Saint-Maximin’s importance.

We all need some positivity right now – and the prospect of a fully fit, fully focussed Saint-Maximin tearing down the left in this relegation dogfight is the ace no others in the drop battle have up their sleeve. Fingers crossed Bruce can play it sooner, rather than later.

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