In football rumors of transfers are rife, more so when the season draws to a close and clubs begin to plan their deals and targets for the summer. Of course many of these supposed tip offs are nonsense claiming that ‘Frank Ribery has been seen in Manchester Airport’ or that your neighbor’s postman somehow knows that Jermaine Defoe has all but agreed a transfer to Everton.
However on some occasions a rumor surfaces and you take notice. For example I was told a month prior to his appointment that Alan Pardew was being lined up, crazy I know. At the time I laughed it off but when Hughton was sacked the rest as they say, was history.
Now once again I’ve been told a rumor with a bit more substances than airport sightings or Milkman claiming that a player has cancelled his delivery. The claim in question is that Charles N’Zogbia will make a return to Newcastle United this summer. And I for one am shocked.
I still remember the first time I watched him play. It was away to West Brom. Signed from Le Havre when he was 14 by famous talent spotter (and legend) Sir Bobby Robson, there was a sense of intrigue as he took the pitch. The game finished 0-0 but N’Zogbia hit the post, you could see there was potential in his play: quick feet and good dribbling. You knew he would at least forge a career from football.
In the 2005-06 season, we saw him really establish himself. He became an early hero after scoring the equalizing free-kick in a draw at home to Fulham, kick-starting the club’s season. The season would see him end on six goals and several assists. His form of course did not go unnoticed with the Premier League’s French embassy Arsenal taking a keen interest in him.
His crowning moment that year was his goal against Sunderland. Holding off one defender with his back to goal, he span his man before squeezing past another and dribbling past a third. He then calmly slotted it in the bottom corner to visual pandemonium in the away end in arguably one of the best goals of the season. Everything seemed fantastic for both club and player. Fans adored him. He adored the attention.
A contract extension duly followed but 2006-07 saw problems in the burdening career of N’Zogbia. Disappointingly then manager Glenn Roeder, he preferred the talents of Damien Duff. Many, including myself, wanted ‘Zoggy’ to start.
That season also saw the first emergence of a questionable attitude. Selected as a substitute for the final game of the season to Watford, he refused. This was not the first temperamental French winger Newcastle fans had liked. Still in his teens cynics may say his attitude showed the naivety of youth and that at his age patience was required. His agent on the other hand may say his client was clearly ambitious and vindicated in believing he was better than the aptly named Damien Duff.
With the departure of Glenn Roeder a proverbial clean slate was given to N’Zogbia by scientist come football manager Sam Allardyce. Another fruitful romance blossomed and he scored the first goal in a 3-1 win away to Allardyce’s former employers Bolton. Shortly after that he signed a 5 year contract and all seemed right in the world of Charles N’Zogbia. Everybody was happy, for now.
Move forward just over a year and Allardyce’s days at the club were numbered. Meanwhile N’Zogbia was now telling every journalist with a pen and paper that he wanted to play at a higher level, and that he could play at a higher level. Already wanting out the final straw came in January thanks to foul mouthed PR specialist Joe Kinnear.
After a 2-1 loss to Manchester City, Kinnear stumbled over Charles’s last name before calling him ‘Insomnia’ by mistake. In a somewhat childish move the player issued a statement saying he would never play for Newcastle again while Kinnear remained in charge. In truth this was just the vehicle with which to engineer a move to bigger things.
With but one day to go in the transfer window N’Zogbia got his move. It wasn’t Arsenal or Juventus as expected but Wigan. Looking back, the fee of £6m was scandalous moreso when you consider Newcastle gained Ryan Taylor in return. His form for Wigan since has been more than impressive. Birmingham, Sunderland, and even Newcastle have all had bids rejected but it would seem the latter have all but secured their man with one source claiming ‘almost done,’ while another claiming a definitively done deal.
They say ‘never go back,’ a lesson learned the hard way with Kevin Keegan and the club. One thing is for certain. Despite temperament issues, Charles N’Zogbia has unquestionable talent and for that reason will excite the fans and no doubt cause them to fall in love with him again. The question is though how long until the Frenchman’s itchy feet kick in and he starts to be seduced by the press rumors of top clubs fighting for his signature.