Amalfitano, Ben Arfa, Cabaye, Debuchy, Gouffran, Haidara, Marveaux, Obertan, Sissoko and Yanga-Mbiwa makes ten. Ten players Newcastle brought over the Channel and across England to settle on Tyneside. All of them came for what is (in the football world I mean) a trifle. Not all of them can be considered successful purchases but overall, the balance is shifting in favour of the board’s strategy.
Their latest target seems to be Lille’s most consistent defender for 5 years now. Chedjou was born in 1985 in Douala, Cameroon, but spent only his prime youth before his family moved to Europe. He signed his first contract for Pau (then French third tier) but was quickly enrolled into the ever-successful youth scheme from Auxerre. Aurélien was only 17 but spent 2 promising seasons with the club’s reserve team before moving to Rouen where he caught the eye of many French scouts. Lille secured the deal quickly and made him leave Normandy only half a season after he hung his hat there.
In the North of France, he spent his first season mostly with the reserves, enjoying only two appearances with the flagship team. At the beginning of the 2008-2009 season, he seized his chance when following a series of injuries in the regular defensive line-up, he was offered some playing time. The 23 years old boy convinced his staff and his partners immediately.
His natural strength was impressive but just a necessary requirement for a top level centre back. He made a difference with his rivals for a starting position, thanks to his technical skills; which we can without the shadow of a doubt consider to be way above average for somebody playing so deep on the pitch.
It’s also during this period that he was called up under the national jersey for the first time and counts as of today 23 caps with the indomitable lions.
From there, his progression curve will follow his club’s rise to national glory. He played 51 games in 2009-2010 and ended the league in fourth place. The following season saw him take part in 55 games and bring home the French Ligue 1 title as well as the French cup trophy. Next was the discovery of Champions League football and the true world football top level. This probably gave him the will to go a step further.
To this extend, he recently declared to France Football magazine that he wanted to find out what he is really made of: “With what I show with Lille, I am not afraid of competition. [...] Do not misunderstand me, I’m not bigheaded. I just feel ready for a top European club. Then know I’ll have to earn my place in the team.”
In a nutshell, the Magpies’ scouts seem to have wisely observed the French league. Chedjou will be allowed to leave Lille next summer for a very reasonable price. The only concern Newcastle fans should have is that such a well known bargain deal brings competition on the transfer market. Marseille, Galatasaray and Valencia are already said to be in the race for his signing. Nonetheless Newcastle can use Chedjou’s former teammates in Lille (Cabaye and Debuchy) for a good advertising of the club to the Cameroonian defender.
And who knows, maybe one day, French day will happen every other weekend at Saint James Park!