MASSADIO Haïdara wants to become Newcastle United’s answer to Gareth Bale – but he knows it will be baby steps at first.
The France Under-21 left-back swaps a relegation fight at Nancy for one on Tyneside, and will be breathing down the neck of out-of-form Davide Santon almost immediately.
He was too modest to say as much, but Newcastle’s intention is to use the presence of the raw but highly-promising Haïdara to put pressure on Santon to improve the parts of his game which still need fine-tuning.
Haïdara should prove a worthy rival to the Italy international, for he can attack from the left-back slot too. He has been utilised in a back three at Nancy and points out that roving like Tottenham’s Wales international is a big part of his game.
He explained: “I’m a player who has quite a bit of speed, I’m quite powerful and I like to get forward.
“I will also cover my defensive duties when I need to as well – forward and backwards. In terms of my idols it’s really players who have played in my position, whether that be on the left or the right hand side.
“Patrice Evra and Marcelo are my idols but wingers as well – Gareth Bale of Tottenham. I try to watch the very best to learn from them and to take on board everything that they do so I can improve myself too.”
The Haïdara chase was bubbling away in the background while Newcastle looked at frontline targets, but it is worth noting that the Magpies beat significant opposition to secure the signing of the 20-year-old (pictured left) .
AS Roma, Fiorentina and Milan were interested, but he wanted to sign for a team he has called “Ligue 1 in the Premier League”.
He explained: “Well, it’s a massive club in the Premier League, it’s got a great history and compared to the interest I had from other clubs, Newcastle really showed an interest in wanting me here. Newcastle indeed showed that they wanted to push this through compared to the others.
“They really wanted to push through a deal immediately and quickly. They were always calling my agent trying to work out a deal and make it go through as quickly as possible.
“They were calling my advisers and that pleased me as well. I wanted to make sure it would get done.”
Haïdara comes to Newcastle from a “tiring” six months that saw Nancy facing a major fight to retain their top-flight status. In England he must settle into a new country, a new sporting culture and a new language, but he says he will take it in his stride.
“I am not daunted by it,” he said. “I am young, as you mentioned, but I made the choice to come here and I knew exactly what to expect by coming to Newcastle. I came here to learn about the English game.
“I wanted to play alongside fantastic players, which we have here. I don’t want to go too fast, obviously, and if I have to wait then I have to wait. But if I am called upon to play, I will be ready.”