MOUSSA SISSOKO claims the Newcastle United team had its heart ripped out when Yohan Cabaye was sold, and now leading goalscorer Loic Remy has dropped the biggest hint yet that he will not be returning to St James’ Park.
As the Magpies plot on trying to strengthen a squad weakened by the departures of free agents and expiring loans, Sissoko has warmed up for France’s pre-World Cup friendly with Norway tonight by hailing the benefits of having Cabaye and Remy alongside him.
Cabaye was sold for a deal worth around £20m in January to Paris St Germain and Newcastle’s inability to replace him at such a late stage in the transfer window proved costly as they slipped out of contention for a top five spot.
His exit also coincided with Remy’s injury troubles in the second half of the campaign, but the Queens Park Rangers front-man still managed to end the season as the club’s top scorer with 14 goals.
Cabaye is likely to be at the hub of the French midfield tonight, with Remy competing to replace Karim Benzema in attack, although Didier Deschamps has previously preferred to play Remy out wide.
“Yohan was at the heart of our game,” said Sissoko, speaking in France. “He was the link between defence and attack. His departure was a big loss and we felt it straight away.
“We tried to do without him but it was difficult. However we still managed to finish in the top ten, which was the objective of the club. I think since he was selected we have seen he brings a lot to this French team with his passing, his vision of the game. Hopefully he will bring his talent to this World Cup.”
And on Remy, he added: "I think he’s better in axis at the top, where he has indicated he likes to play. This is where he shone this season with Newcastle and he can create danger at any time. I hope to see a good Loic Remy during the World Cup.”
While Cabaye’s future was sorted out in January, Remy has still to decide on where he will be playing next season.
Following the end of his season-long loan on Tyneside, he is back at Queens Park Rangers and is waiting to see which clubs match his release clause in his contract, thought to be around £9m.
Liverpool and Arsenal are interested and Rangers boss Harry Redknapp does not think he will be back at Newcastle, who were yesterday linked with Nice midfielder Nampalys Mendy, 21.
Redknapp, whose side are back in the Premier League after winning Saturday’s play-off final, said: “I don’t see Remy wanting to come back and play. He’s talking about playing Champions League somewhere.
“I wouldn’t know what he’ll do but I think he’s got a buy-out clause which is set at a reasonable level. Not much more than we paid for him (£8m).”
Now that QPR are back in the top-flight, Redknapp will be looking to make improvements to his squad and he is keen to add players with Premier League experience. He is an admirer of Steven Taylor.
Taylor still has two years remaining on his contract at St James’ Park but a decent offer for the former England Under-21 international could tempt the club into selling.
And further cash raised this summer from transfer sales is likely to boost the fund and Frenchman Remy Cabella is still a top target. He is one of seven reserve players in France’s World Cup squad.
Cabella said: “I would have handled the situation the same way. My father and my agent deal with it, not me. I prepare. When I go back to Montpellier then I will make decision.
“The coach gave me a message by calling me up as a reserve for the World Cup. It’s to make sure I keep the momentum going and be at Euro 2016. This is an objective for me. To be told I was among the seven reserves is pride. I’m happy. I’m preparing 100 per cent in case there is an injury.”