France heads to the World Cup in Brazil as underdogs, having only managed to scrape past Ukraine in the play-offs. Yet of all the players fighting for a seat on the plane, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) midfielder Yohan Cabaye has arguably done more than most to secure one. Furthermore, he may have been inadvertently helped in his efforts by the words of France boss, Didier Deschamps.
In August last year, while a Newcastle United player, Cabaye missed the Toon’s first two matches of the season. British newspapers claimed it was because he was on strike as he tried to push through a dream move to Arsenal. The French press countered that the player had missed the two Premier League matches with the agreement of manager Alan Pardew. The reasons for his absence are immaterial now, but one there was one person who was not impressed by his absence was a certain monsieur Deschamps.
The France boss was unequivocal when he said: “If you don’t play for three weeks, how can you be in shape to play an international? It’s impossible.” The move to Arsenal never happened, but within six months, a move to moneybags PSG for a reported £19 million plus extras, did. Interesting as Cabaye had previously said he was incredibly happy on Tyneside and had no desire to go back to France. Of course, the cynics out there are convinced that he was lured by a huge salary. After all, why would a player leave one of the best leagues in world soccer at his peak to go and play in one where there is no competition apart from maybe Monaco?
Of course money had something to do with it, probably lots to do with it, but scratch beneath the surface and the move makes a lot of sense. Deschamps’ comments not only spurred Cabaye on to get his head down and earn a ticket to Brazil, the player also knew that by returning to his homeland to join the champions and champions elect, he would be right under his boss’ nose. Furthermore, the move took him from a team fighting for a Europa League place to one in the Champions League, his lack of European involvement in England making him eligible to slot into a side boasting Sweden striker, Zlatan Ibrahimović. Deschamps now gets to see the midfielder playing with the best against the best, if selected. The player has yet to command a regular place in the PSG side, but such is Deschamps’ enthusiasm for the player. He contradicted himself this week when he said, “I would have preferred Cabaye to have more minutes under his belt, and that goes for him too of course, but I’m not worried.” Either it does matter if a player gets minutes on a pitch or it does not. Either way, the words of Deschamps helped to engineer a move to PSG and back into the France boss’ plans.
Deschamps will see traits in the Yohan Cabaye-Paul Pogba-Blaise Matuidi trident as ones reminiscent of the Michel Platini, Alain Giresse, Luis Fernández and Jean Tigana “carré magique” that secured Euro 84. Whether Deschamps’ words were designed to get Cabaye back to France or just to rev him up, they have helped. Whether they helped get him a seat on the plane remains to be seen.
This article is one in a daily series providing commentary and analysis of the teams and players participating in this year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Commentary by Robert Shepherd