Moussa Sissoko’s performance for France against Portugal in the Euro 2016 final was as mystifying as it was impressive. In an underwhelming team display, Sissoko’s direct running and drive stood out and must have left Newcastle United fans watching scratching their heads. Sissoko has, like far too many of his Newcastle teammates, always been capable of eye-catching moments but they arrive far too infrequently.
The Frenchman’s name is a regular presence in gossip columns every transfer window, testament to the fact his agent likes to keep himself busy. Following his displays in France this summer however, it is hard to envisage Sissoko staying at Newcastle to battle for promotion from the Championship.
Today, he made it explicitly clear he favours a move to a Premier League club, though buyers may well be deterred by the £35m price tag that Newcastle have slapped on him. We examined three clubs that might be interested in acquiring Sissoko’s services.
A reunion with former boss Alan Pardew and international teammate Yohan Cabaye looks a good fit on a number of different levels. Sissoko doesn’t quite have the technical polish and consistency to warrant a move to a Champions League club, but is probably too good for a side battling relegation. A transfer to aspirant Palace, FA Cup finalists last term, would pitch Sissoko more or less at his level.
He would be one of Palace’s key players should he join, and he strikes you as a player who wants the adulation of being one of the mainstays of a team. With Mile Jedinak, Cabaye, Joe Ledley and Sissoko, Palace would have an abundance of physical and athletic midfield options. Sissoko’s key strength is his running power, both with and without the ball, which possibly suits a team that plays largely on the counter. His best displays at Newcastle often came at St James Park against the bigger clubs. Firstly, there are temperament issues at play here, but they are also the teams who afforded him grass to run into. Palace, through Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie, are already set up to play in this fashion.
The Reds have already taken an interest in Sissoko’s Newcastle teammate Georgino Wijnaldum but they might consider a move for Sissoko. A move to a club of Liverpool’s stature would certainly grab the Frenchman’s attention. With the exception of the £35m purchase of Sadio Mane, Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool have been quite circumspect in the market thus far. Sissoko doesn’t quite fit into their buying policy, which is based on identifying the best young talent around Europe and buying them well before their peak years; a philosophy with links to the much discussed ‘Moneyball’ system.
Klopp’s style of play demands a tremendous physical exertion from his midfielders, and Sissoko has the athleticism to cope with this workload. The famed ‘Gegenpressing’ that Klopp has described as his team’s best creative force relies on players who can sprint to their opponent to force turnovers of possession, and then sprint forward to the space that is left behind them. Sissoko has the physical capacity to do this, whether he has the technical quality to make the most of it is debatable.
Spurs are another club said to be interested in Sissoko, and with Champions League football to contend with next season there they are keen to increase the size of the squad. Mauricio Pochettino has already recruited former Southampton charge Victor Wanyama, so he could well deem that his midfield needs are satiated.
However, Sissoko’s direct running would diversify Spurs’ attack, which often relied on intricate passing sequences with lots of players packed into central areas in order to create chances. In the form of Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen and Moussa Dembele, Spurs have an abundance of ball-playing technicians. They are not blessed with much pace and counter-attacking threat however, with the exception of Danny Rose and Kyle Walker and the late bursts of Dele Alli. Sissoko could add a little more of this ingredient. It is doubtful whether he is capable of the consistent application demanded by Pochettino.