Newcastle United have made swift moves to replace the departed Yohan Cabaye on Tyneside, with reports that they have tabled a “substantial bid” for Lyon’s 23 year old Clement Grenier.
The club are eager to re-invest some of the money recouped from Cabaye’s sale to PSG on Wednesday, and it is believed that an offer of around €13m-€15m has been lodged with Lyon President Jean-Michel Aulas. That appears to be around about the right price for the club to seriously consider the bid.
Grenier, who plays predominantly as a right-sided midfielder or as a traditional number 10, has stated his desire in the past to stay with Lyon and help them achieve their goals over the course of the season. However, he has also publicly noted that the time will come to leave, and that he wishes to bring in a respectable transfer fee for the club which developed him.
Signing for Lyon at age 11, from his hometown club of Annonay, Grenier has learned his trade at Lyon’s fabled academy – The Centre Tola Vologe. The centre has produced such names as Karim Benzema, Sidney Govou, Ludovic Guily and Newcastle’s own Hatem Ben Arfa in recent years, and is known for nurturing exceptionally gifted, technical players.
As far as replacing Cabaye at Newcastle goes, Grenier isn’t the perfect fit – defensive work has never been his focus, and he has not been asked to play in a deeper midfield role in his short career so far. His abilities come to the fore when facing the attacking third of the field. He has two excellent feet, can pass long and short, and his dead ball skills are exemplary.
He has made a name for himself from free-kicks since making his Lyon debut, and has drawn praise from Brazilian free-kick maestro Juninho Pernambucano, himself a Lyon legend. There is no doubt that he is a match with a deadball for Cabaye, whose last goal for Newcastle was an inch perfect free-kick away at West Ham.
Comparisons between the two inevitably don’t hold up directly – Cabaye was a championship winner at 25 years old before moving to England, whereas Grenier has not yet started 30 league games in one season. However he has shown a clear progression with every game, and his passing accuracy and general hold up play have improved greatly over the last year or so.
A player who could be more easily compared to Grenier is the aforementioned Ben Arfa. He too was a prodigious talent in France, and rumour mills had him going everywhere from Milan to Madrid at one point or another. Injury and issues off the field led to his star fading however, and it was Alan Pardew who finally got the best out of the Frenchman after he arrived in Toon.
Grenier could do well to follow his compatriots move and allow the foreign legion on Tyneside, and the improved quality of the Premier League, to help him develop his game.
The problem now for Newcastle will be to persuade the player that they are the club for him. At 23 years old, and possessing such ability, he may well play his way into the eyesight’s of several bigger clubs over the coming months. He will also be anxious to hear if he will be granted a guaranteed starting place, with the World Cup around the corner.
The player has made just 3 appearances for his national team so far, however Grenier has represented France at every level from under-16 upwards. He has a U-17 European Championship runners-up medal, and was influential in France’s victory at the 2010 U-19 European Championships.
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