He is the most expensive signing of the January transfer window so far, and yesterday Papiss Demba Cissé received the ultimate endorsement when Alan Shearer declared the £10 million striker worthy of Newcastle’s sacred No 9 shirt.
Shearer, arguably the most revered of all Newcastle’s heroic centre-forwards, believes there has been something missing on Tyneside since Andy Carroll joined Liverpool a year ago, leaving the shirt vacant.
He is delighted the club have found a man with a formidable goalscoring reputation in German football to wear their No?9; more importantly still, Shearer is thrilled the 26 year-old from Senegal seems to recognise and even welcome the burden of expectation which comes with it.
“It is one of the most iconic shirt numbers in football, certainly in this country, and I’m delighted that somebody has come in and is going to wear it,” said Shearer, the club’s record goalscorer. “I can understand why it was kept empty when Andy left, but something has been missing
“You can look into it as much as you want, but there’s no doubt that it’s a special shirt. You can say the same about the No 7 at Liverpool or the No 10 at Tottenham Hotspur. It’s one of those positions that people look at.
“The most important thing is that Cissé actually wants to wear it, he wants that responsibility and that’s half the battle. There are expectations that come with it, but the biggest is a simple one – that you score goals.”
Cissé was given a glowing reference by his international team-mate Demba Ba, but Newcastle have not bought him to do anyone a favour; in fact, Alan Pardew has stolen a march on several leading European clubs to sign him from Freiburg.
Having scored 22 goals for the modest German club last season, Cissé was among the most sought-after strikers around when Newcastle first tried and failed to sign him in the summer, and he would have been so again had he waited until the end of the season.
Cissé, though, who left the family home in Dakar to begin his European career in Metz in France, insists he had decided where he wanted to go: Newcastle.
“Newcastle have got a jewel. From the moment he arrived at Freiburg he was happy and scoring goals. We have never had a player like him,” said Rudi Raschke, Freiburg’s general manager.
“He is quick and his movement is incredible. He does not need time to think about scoring, it’s natural to him. Defenders always struggle to know where he is.
“He finished second top scorer in Germany last season behind [Mario] Gomez at Bayern Munich and he [Gomez] is a €30 million player.”
Cissé has agreed a 51/2-year contract with Newcastle and a basic wage of around £40,000 a week, in the process fulfilling a childhood dream of playing in the Premier League.
“The move was player-driven,” said his agent Andy Evans. “Ba was important, obviously, but Papiss could have waited until the summer and seen who was in for him then. Newcastle have been chasing him for six months, he knew that, he felt wanted. They never gave up.
“He is well aware of the history of the No 9 shirt and what it means to the club and the supporters, that appealed to him because that is the sort of character he is.”
It seemed to Freiburg they were taking a major gamble when they signed him from Metz for £1.5 million in December 2009.
After two hugely successful years, his transfer value soared and at one stage Freiburg priced him at £14 million, which threatened to delay his hopes of a move to England. Cissé wasn’t distracted, and scored nine goals in 17 appearances for a side stuck at the bottom of the Bundesliga this season.
More used to being disappointed or incensed by the Mike Ashley regime when it comes to transfer windows, Newcastle’s supporters are thrilled at a signing that not only proves the £35 million received from Liverpool for Carroll is being spent, but that the club retains some pulling power in both Africa and Europe.
Having sold a neat dummy with his public insistence Newcastle were not looking to sign a striker this month, Pardew was understandably thrilled to have brought one in after a two-year pursuit and still intends to add a centre-back before the close of the window.
He added: “To join him with players like [Yohan] Cabaye, Demba and [Hatem] Ben Arfa – it really does look exciting now.
“He’s a good age, in the prime of his career, and has been under pressure in his career, so will understand it. He will attack it in an honest way, he is an honest footballer and our fans appreciate that. I really hope the fans are going to love him.”