Transfer deadline day has been about as entertaining as watching paint dry in the last few years and it was no exception this time around. The highlight of the day for anyone without a vested interest was surely Steven Fletcher heading to the south of France in a loan deal to Olympique Marseille; quite why he would want to leave sunny Sunderland though is anybody’s guess.
Up the road in Newcastle, bar a last ditch attempt to bring back Spaniard Jose Enrique and with West Brom not shifting on Berahino, it was all quiet as McClaren and co had conducted most of their business beforehand. With Henri Saivet and Jonjo Shelvey already in the bag earlier in the month, Andros Townsend soon followed for another £12 million as spending pushed the £30 million mark. This was quite easily the most spent of any Premier League club and even eclipsed spending for the whole of La Liga – a staggering statistic when you think about it.
However, it was the capture of striker Seydou Doumbia that was the most unexpected and it may just be that this move goes a long way to deciding whether Newcastle will be playing Premier League football next year or not. It was no secret that the Magpies were in search of a goal-scorer to help Mitrovic and co. in an attack that has netted just 25 times during the 2015/16 campaign. Lyon’s Lacazette, ex-Toon striker Loic Remy, and of course the long standing Berahino situation were all options that proved unsuccessful but it was a surprise when Doumbia’s name was first mentioned.
The 28-year-old Ivory Coast international signed on an initial loan deal from Serie A giants Roma after failing to impress in Italy, scoring just two league goals in 13 games. Roma paid CSKA Moscow around £11 million for his services in 2015 after five years in Russia resulted in 84 goals in 129 games overall, 17 of those goals coming in just 22 European games. Indeed it was his two strikes at the Etihad that sealed a 2-1 win against Manchester City in last years Champions League.
His goal-scoring pedigree isn’t really in doubt but for one reason or another, failing to settle in Rome meant that Doumbia was left out in the cold and forced to train on his own. The main concern regarding Doumbia is and has always been his fitness. Throughout the years, he has been extremely fragile, missing countless games due to various injuries. Ankle, thigh and back problems seem to keep mounting at a very alarming rate.
After the disappointment in Italy, he was loaned back to CSKA at the start of the season and according to sources at CSKA, Doumbia barely trained at all. He kept complaining of different minor injuries and only took part in the games themselves. That was possible because coach Leonid Slutsky and most of his team-mates have known the Ivorian for years, in a similar manner to how Ledley King’s ongoing knee complaints were handled by the medical team at Spurs in years gone by. There was a phenomenal mutual understanding between the striker and his team-mates, something which enabled him to perform without actually training with the team.
Even so, his form dipped significantly towards the end of 2015, and Doumbia has actually failed to find the net since October. Doumbia’s last game was in the Champions League against PSV on December 8th and with now just 14 games left for Newcastle to save their season, it is indeed a risky move. McClaren says he has to assess the forward before he will have any idea when he will be ready to start a game, pointing out that it is over eight weeks since he played a match. The hope though is that eventually, the Ivory Coast international will bring goals to the side and help Newcastle climb out of the relegation zone.
There is no doubt that he adds both an additional option and experience in attack. The fact that he has secured the accolades of Russian Premier League winner in 2012/13 and 2013/14 and twice the league’s top scorer cannot be ignored. However, with Papiss Cissé still out injured and Mitrovic and Perez not out and out goal-scorers, relying on the fitness and goal-scoring ability of a player who has never played in the Premier League and who has not played competitively for a period of time is a gamble.
On the flip side though, Doumbia is the great unknown. Stranger things have happened where newcomers are just thrown straight into the action and hit the ground running. Let’s hope for McClaren and Newcastle’s sake that this is the case here or the club faces the prospect of missing out on a share of the huge TV money to come as they languish back in the Championship.
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