NEWCASTLE United boss Alan Pardew has paid tribute to the new “force of football” who has helped turnaround the Tyneside club's fortunes since completing a bargain switch from French football.
After helping the Magpies to a much-needed win on his debut at Aston Villa six days ago, powerful midfielder Moussa Sissoko's second half double sealed an impressive three points against European champions Chelsea.
His goals will have caught the eye across the Premier League, but it was the manner of his overall display which suggested Newcastle have a player of high quality on their hands.
Sissoko was courted by a number of clubs, including Sunderland and Aston Villa, because he was due to become a free agent at the end of his deal with Toulouse.
And after choosing St James' Park as his preferred destination, Newcastle struck a £1.8m deal to bring him to the Premier League early. Given the predicament Pardew's team find themselves in near the relegation zone, the early indications are that the financial outlay will be worth every penny.
“I kind of argued the case - let’s do it right now, let’s not mess about,” said Pardew. “We managed to do that and we’ve got our reward. You don’t always know how it’s going to to work out with a new player, but I did have a good feeling.
“Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, who has been unlucky not to start, has come in and shown a similar kind of attitude to Moussa; there is almost a presence about them, which I think everyone has sensed. It’s given everyone a lift.”
Sissoko's power and composure in possession caused Chelsea real problems to suggest he is more than capable of playing at the very highest level for club and country.
Such displays led to Toulouse slapping a £10m valuation on him before he entered the final six months of his contract, which proved enough to put off many clubs whose scouting systems have him down as very much a work in progress – even those in France.
Pardew is already convinced. He said: “I’ve no idea why others (bigger clubs) didn't go for him. The game I first saw Moussa in was 14-16 months ago and I walked away that night wanting to get him there and then.
“His performance speaks for itself and it doesn’t need me to give a sound-bite because he’s going to get enough headlines, but he’s just been like a giant, that’s all I can say, in training and in everything, the way he’s carried himself. He’s a real force of football.
“It’s only two games in and hopefully we’re saying the same thing in the summer, because those Chelsea players we came up against are top top players - Oscar, (Frank) Lampard, (Juan) Mata. They’re fabulous players and we had players out there who looked every bit as good as them and that’s a great lift for us.”
After watching Chelsea come from a goal down to edge ahead just after the hour through Lampard and Mata's goals, Newcastle needed something special to claim three points. Sissoko obliged.
He followed up his first for the club – a cool rebound finish after Yoan Gouffran had been denied – with a stunning last-minute winner; sparking wild celebrations in the Newcastle dug-out with his new team-mates.
There were similar celebrations after the final whistle, when Sissoko went on his own lap of honour with compatriot - and the equally influential - Yohan Cabaye in front or the Newcastle fans.
"That idea came from Yohan after the first match with Aston Villa,” said Sissoko. “He suggested the same against Chelsea, the fans' support was brilliant. The fact we came away with a victory was awesome thanks to their support.
"When I scored the second I simply wanted to celebrate it with my team-mates. Ever since I've arrived they've been absolutely fantastic with me. They've helped me, supported me, encouraged me and I just wanted to go out and thank them.”
Having been described as a “giant” by his new manager the France international, who does not turn 24 until August, is keen to ensure he maintains the high standards he has set in his first two matches to keep Newcastle progressing.
"When I signed I knew full well the position Newcastle were in but I didn't have any fears,” said Sissoko. “The first half of the season Newcastle had a lot of injury problems and they couldn't perhaps put out the full team they wanted to put out.
“In the second half of the season it's going to be very different with the new signings bringing a boost to the team. I'm very happy to be here. We're going to play to our strengths, do as well as we can and finish the season as high as we possibly can.”
He added: "I can only thank the manager for his nice words about me. Since I arrived here he's always told me what he expects of me. He's told me he's seen a lot of me previously in France.
“He said he knew I'd succeed if I continue playing like that. I told him I'll do my best in each and every match so I don't let him down and he just basically congratulated me. He told me to continue playing like this and I'll be a fantastic success in the Premier League."
Newcastle midfielder Cheik Tiote is due back on Tyneside before Saturday's trip to Tottenham.
Tiote's Africa Cup of Nations hopes came to an end yesterday when Nigeria reached the semi-final with a 2-1 over Ivory Coast.
And defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa has been called up to the France squad for Tuesday's friendly in Germany.
He replaces Real Madrid teenager Raphael Varane, who has been forced out with a thigh problem.
Yanga-Mbiwa, a £6.7m buy from Montpellier last month, joins club-mates Sissoko, Yohan Cabaye and Mathieu Debuchy with the French.
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