MIRED in the depths of a midwinter depression, Newcastle United need one thing more than anything: players who actually want to play for them.
Demba Ba didn’t, Mathieu Debuchy does. For that reason alone, the revolving door that operated at St James’ Park has swung in their favour – the fact that Debuchy is one of Europe’s best right-backs only makes the deal all that sweeter.
Still, his commitment to joining Newcastle was the main theme to be extricated from his first interviews after joining United on a five-and-a-half year contract.
He had been on the black and white radar for a long time, even as far back as Chris Hughton’s days. But if the courtship was long and not always straightforward, it didn’t dim Debuchy’s passion for a club that had provided the perfect platform for his close friend Yohan Cabaye.
“Ever since the summer, I have wanted to join Newcastle. Unfortunately, it couldn’t happen then. But now it is done and here I am, and I am very happy,” he said.
“I always hoped that this day would happen and that I would join Newcastle. I never gave up hope. And if it was not this winter, then I wanted it to happen in the summer.”
That desire was not dimmed by Newcastle’s reticence to do a deal in the summer, when Lille stood firm on a valuation that was not met by any of the clubs showing interest in the right-back.
Perhaps the Ligue 1 club thought that his outstanding performances in the European Championships – displays that saw him linked with Inter Milan and even Real Madrid – would encourage a bidding war. If they did, they doubted Debuchy’s bond with Cabaye, who has done a magnificent job of selling the club to his friend.
The pair will live together while Newcastle’s newest signing settles in and Debuchy’s lack of English language skills will be mitigated by the presence of his friend.
“My relationship with Yohan, it’s true, goes back a long, long time to when we first played together as kids,” he said – through an interpreter. “He has been a big help and I will be living with him here until I get myself sorted out. It’s a real plus that he is here and hopefully, he will help me settle quicker.
“Yohan and I have spoken a lot about Newcastle. It has been a regular topic of conversation, particularly during the Euros. We were together for three weeks and he talked about the club all the time.
“He just told me that Newcastle was the best, that not only was it one of the best teams in the division but away from the playing side, there was a fantastic infrastructure and great support.