Newcastle United's 10 Top Foreign Imports
With the recent "French Revolution" on Tyneside, many pundits are rating Yohan Cabaye as one of the best signings of the summer. With that in mind I have drawn up a list of the 10 best foreign imports at Newcastle United.
There are a couple of caveats to this list. Firstly, I am not counting the Republic of Ireland as "foreign". If I did, the list would look very different!
Secondly, I am only including players from the last 30 years—it's hard to judge players I haven't seen play! I don't think this excludes many great foreign players. George Robledo is probably the only notable exception; based on his goal tally alone, he would surely top the list.
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Jose Enrique, nicknamed "The Bull", signed for Newcastle United in 2007, although the young Spaniard struggled with the physical nature of the Premier League when he first arrived.
Somewhat surprisingly, Jose stayed at Newcastle after their relegation in 2009. He was one of the stars of Newcastle's promotion campaign. The massive roar from the crowd when he scored his only goal for the club, in a key match against Nottingham Forest, was testament to how warmly the Geordie fans had taken to him.
He played a key role in Newcastle's successful first season back in the top flight before leaving to join Liverpool. He played 119 times for Newcastle and in that time developed into one of the left-backs in Europe.
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Because Cheik Tiote is only in his second season with Newcastle, some may deem it too early to add him to this list. The signing of Tiote from FC Twente for £3.5million may well go down as one of the best bargains in Newcastle's history.
The combative midfielder was a revelation last year and has become an essential part of Alan Pardew's team. His equaliser against Arsenal in the 4-4 draw will live long in the memory of fans.
If Newcastle can keep hold of the Ivorian for a few more seasons, he may well end up near the very top of this list.
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What is it about Newcastle and French left wingers?
N'Zogbia came to Newcastle in 2004 from Le Havre's youth academy. The teenager was an instant hit under the guidance of Sir Bobby Robson and quickly became a fan favourite.
A series of fall outs with staff and players and a seemingly constant search for a move to a bigger club damaged N'Zogbia's reputation. He was eventually offloaded to Wigan after Joe Kinnear "mispronounced" his name "Insomnia".
Despite the trouble that surrounded him, most Newcastle fans would have liked to have seen him return to the club this summer. His talent is undeniable and hopefully has matured. He played 118 games for Newcastle and scored nine goals.
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Faustino Asprilla is almost certainly the most colourful character to have played for Newcastle United. He signed from Parma in 1996 for £6.7million and arrived at St James' Park in a snowstorm sporting a fur coat.
Tino made his debut from the subs bench against Middlesbrough. He hadn't been expecting to feature and had allegedly been drinking before the match. The skills he displayed when he came on were sublime, better than most top class players can produce sober.
Tino became a cult hero though his form was inconsistent and his off-field antics bizarre. His hat-trick against Barcelona at St James' Park earned Tino his place in Geordie history books, but sadly they were his last goals for the club as Kenny Dalglish tired of Asprilla's behaviour.
Asprilla is still a relatively regular visitor to St James' Park and is still massively popular on Tyneside. While many in the media point to his signing as one of the major factors in Newcastle's title challenge collapse in 1995/6, those who watched Newcastle that season know otherwise.
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David Ginola joined Kevin Keegan's Newcastle in 1995. The Frenchman was an instant hit, his pace flair and unbelievable skill fit perfectly into Keegan's entertainers.
Ginola was one of those rare players, capable of producing stunning moments of magic that were worth the entrance fee alone.
Ginola managed 74 appearances for Newcastle and scored seven goals.
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Laurent Robert was hailed as the new "Ginola" when he joined from PSG in 2001. The £9.5million Frenchman was at times unbelievably good, scoring some sensational goals, including an overhead back-heel goal against Fulham.
Unfortunately, attitude problems marred the latter years of Robert's time at Newcastle United. While overall he probably contributed a lot more to the club than David Ginola ever did, his temperament and the circumstances of his departure mean he will never be remembered with the same fondness as his left-wing predecessor.
Robert played 129 games for Newcastle during his five year stint on Tyneside and scored 30 goals—many of them truly spectacular.
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Argentinean international Fabriccio Coloccini joined Newcastle from Deportivo La Coruna in 2008. Coloccini at first struggled to adjust to English football but having stuck with Newcastle through their season in the Championship, he has emerged a far better player.
Arguably the best player on the current Newcastle side, he was made club captain after the departure of Kevin Nolan in the summer.
He is a cult figure on Tyneside with his own chant and vast numbers of fans sporting his name and number on the back of their shirts.
He has scored four goals for the club so far, and with big clubs rumoured to be circling, a new contract for Coloccini would be a prefect Christmas gift from Mike Ashley to the Newcastle fans.
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The "Pavel is a Geordie" chant was regularly heard on Tyneside through the 1990's. Czech star Pavel Srnicek had the often unenviable task of keeping goal for the less than defensively-minded "Entertainers" side under Kevin Keegan.
His popularity surpassed his actual ability. His Czech heritage and fear of crosses (footballing, not spiritual) drew light-hearted speculation that he was in fact a vampire. His shot stopping was second to none, and his dedication and warm nature saw him become an adopted Geordie.
In 1997, he was replaced as first choice by Shay Given, he left the club in 1998 just one match away from his 150th appearance.
In 2006 though, an injury to Given saw Srnicek return to the club on a short-term loan. In the last match before that deal was set to expire, he came on as an 87th minute substitution. He received a tremendous ovation from the Newcastle faithful as he finally reached 150 appearances.
His contract was extended to the end of the season and he retired that summer.
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Philippe Albert in many ways summed up Newcastle's style of football under Kevin Keegan. Rarely has a central defender been given such freedom to surge forward. Even if they were, few would do it with such aplomb.
Kevin Keegan signed the Belgian international in 1994 for £2.6million. He was massively popular during his five years in Tyneside and is probably best remembered for his sublime chip over Peter Schmeichal during a 5-0 demolition of Manchester United.
Albert popularised the number 27 shirt on Tyneside, which has since been worn by Jonathon Woodgate and Steven Taylor. Philippe played 96 games for Newcastle and netted eight goals.
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No other foreign player in the modern era has taken to life and football in Newcastle like Nolberto Solano.
Having signed for £2.5million in 1998, he became the first Peruvian to play in the Premier League. Hardworking, skillful, and intelligent, he was an instant hit with fans.
In 2004 he was sold to Aston Villa, only to return to Newcastle 18 months later.
In his two spells at Newcastle he managed 304 appearances and contributed 48 goals. Solano still lives in the North East and is currently playing for Hartlepool United.