Moussa Sissoko to Tottenham: Have Spurs signed a superstar or a fraud?
There is not a player with more to prove in the Premier League this season than Moussa Sissoko. Everywhere he looks now that he is a Tottenham Hotspur player, including the mirror, Sissoko will see people he needs to prove something to.
There are the Newcastle United supporters who celebrated the fact their club had managed to get £30m for him with the sort of joy that would normally accompany a new signing. The happiness at the sale of a supposedly key player is unparalleled in the club’s recent history. That should tell him everything about what people thought of him after three-and-a half-years on Tyneside.
There are the Everton fans who will despise him for making their club look stupid, for allowing his agent to pretend he wanted to sign, for agreeing personal terms and then refusing, not only to travel to Merseyside, but to even have the decency to answer his phone to manager Ronald Koeman to tell him he did not want to make the move.
There are the Tottenham fans who, within minutes of learning the Frenchman had decided to sign for them, were greeted with a bombardment of old quotes from the midfielder, in which he repeatedly talked of his love for Arsenal and how desperate he was to sign for their bitter rivals.
The icing on the cake? The picture on social media, taken from a documentary in France, which showed Sissoko had a replica Arsenal kit in his wardrobe at home.
And then there are the football supporters all over the country, the armchair fans and pundits, who desperately want to know whether Tottenham have signed a player who out-performed the world’s most expensive footballer, Paul Pogba in the European Championship final or the one who was largely anonymous for Newcastle for three years as they constantly flirted with relegation and eventually fell into the arms of the Championship.
Sissoko has finally got what he wanted. He is playing for a Champions League side, surrounded by good players at a glamorous club fighting for silverware, rather than treading water in the Premier League like Newcastle.
But he still has to prove he deserves to be there because the brutal truth is, had Sissoko played as well for Newcastle as he did in his last two appearances for France, he would have got a big move a long time ago. After all, Newcastle are never been adverse to selling their best players for a huge profit, as Yohan Cabaye, Mathieu Debuchy, Demba Ba and Andy Carroll will testify.
Sissoko did not get a move because, until those games for France, nobody thought he deserved one. That is three years of poor performances – particularly away from home - overshadowed by two eye catching ones at a major tournament.
The 27-year-old has the ability to be a wonderful signing for Spurs. Even at the inflated price of £30m, he has the talent to make it look like a shrewd piece of business.
Tottenham have potentially signed the sort of dynamic, box-to-box midfielder they lacked. He is strong, skilful and fast. A supreme athlete who can be devastating on the counter-attack. He could be the V8 engine of Mauricio Pochettino’s team.
But as I wrote shortly after Sissoko’s Euro performances had turned him into a player the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus discussed signing with Newcastle.
“The problem - perhaps even the tragedy – is that Sissoko is also a shirker, a mercurial talent who spent most of his time on Tyneside hiding behind the failings of others, content to go through the motions, only switching off his cruise control setting against the glamorous English clubs. Why?
“It hints at a bad mentality, poor motivation and a player whose self-interest and questionable desire could be harmful to the collective rather than beneficial.
“At times, it has seemed as though everything Sissoko has done at Newcastle since he went on strike at Toulouse, to force a £1.7m move in January 2013, has been a calculated step towards the exit door.
“To sum things up, he has given more interviews in France talking about his desire to play for a Champions League club, than performances in a black and white shirt that proved he was good enough.”
That accusation still stands. It is why Newcastle supporters were so pleased to see him go and why they delighted to get so much money for him.
Given so many of those interviews happened to also mention Arsenal, why did Arsene Wenger show absolutely no interest in him, even after the Euros?
After all, the Gunners also don’t have a midfielder like him, he could have been a key player in the red and white shirt he loves so much, but Wenger ignored him and he has gone to their rivals instead.
Sissoko does not have any excuses anymore. He is not playing in a poor team under a poor manager, as he did so often at Newcastle. He has not joined a stepping stone club. He is where he believes he deserves to be, but now the pressure is on to prove it.