On August 2015, Newcastle United confirmed the signing of £12m Marseille winger, Florian Thauvin. 18 months later, following a nightmare spell at St.James’ Park, Thauvin is back at Marseille, enjoying his best season to date and today, his first ever call up to the French national squad.
Things just did not work out for the Frenchman at Newcastle, but his turnaround is quite remarkable. Yesterday we reached out to Ligue 1 journalist and Marseille expert, Mohammed Ali, in an exclusive interview with us here at NUFCblog.co.uk.
See below for the full Q & A:
Q: ‘Newcastle fans consider Florian Thauvin a flop. He was signed for £12m yet just 12 months later left to re-join Marseille. He made just 3 starts for the club, failing to score once in the league. Why do you feel he failed at NUFC?
“I believe Thauvin did not really want to be at Newcastle. He was earmarked as a player who would be valuable to sell for OM, who were in a bad financial position in 2015. If I can recall, he was told by the president that a move was coming after a game in Reims, his last before joining Newcastle and he didn’t seem overjoyed.
I think Thauvin gambled on the move – his relationship with the fans at the time wasn’t great, Bielsa had left, the team was in crisis – and he had a move to the Premier League with good money lined up. Why not take the plunge?
I think he failed at NUFC, because of certain conditions. He wasn’t physically ready for the rough and tumble of the PL – and was not suited to the manager’s tactical set up. Thauvin is one of those players that needs to feel cherished and given some licence to do this thing up front. No way was that forthcoming at Newcastle. Because of his incompatibility, he was given few chances.“
Q: As ex-NUFC players, I keep a check on his and Cabella’s progress and see Thauvin regularly wins Marseille player of the month? There’s a feeling amongst some Newcastle fans that he was let go too soon but, on the other side of the fence, fans believe his heart was never in it at NUFC, feeling he wouldn’t have shown the sort of form and passion he brings to Marseille?
“Thauvin has been Marseille’s best player since his return a year ago. He’s done really well to make up for the lost time at Newcastle, and also refined his attacking skills. He took the team to the cup final and also started strongly in the league.
It’s his best goal scoring season ever (joint with 2012-13) and if you look at how he’s scored those goals – he is top with Messi for the most goals scored outside of the box.
He has worked hard despite the turmoil at OM which thankfully ended in October with the sale of the club, taking responsibility for his career and putting in some serious effort in training. Rudi Garcia was so impressed he handed him the captain’s armband in January.”
Q: Finally, what’s your understanding of the deal in place between Newcastle and Marseille? Initially, only loans were mentioned with an option or obligation to buy? If no price has been agreed, I would hesitate to suggest NUFC demand more than they paid you for him (£12m), given his fine form?
“My understanding is that Thauvin is no longer a Newcastle player. He is officially on loan with an automatic option to buy that was set at €11m in the summer. However, it was reported that the option was lifted after just three games – making him a Marseille player outright already.
This is yet to be announced or confirmed by the club. However there seems to be no concern that Marseille could lose him in the summer or be forced to fork out more money as a result of his performances.”
We really appreciated Mohammed’s time, providing an insightful look into Thauvin’s nightmare at Newcaslte and masterclass at Marseille.
It is worth noting that for Thauvin, life after NUFC provides a rare tale of success, with french compatriots Moussa Sissoko, Yohan Cabaye and Mathieu Debuchy’s career’s going downhill since leaving St.James’ Park, with the only ex-NUFC man in the latest french national squad being Thauvin himself – earning his first EVER call up, competing in a pool of world class talents.
So, while we may look back at Florian Thauvin’s time at Newcastle as a case of what if, it seems Marseille, a club close to his heart, provided the perfect platform to his success.