It was the European Championship Final. France, the host nation took on Portugal, the eventual winners. The hosts were defeated, but Moussa Sissoko, one of France’s highlights of the tournament alongside the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet, put in one of the performances of the competition and came out independently victorious.
It was as much of a come-and-get-me-plea as the line could ever permit. Sissoko had been rotting at Newcastle, with the Toon eager to see the Frenchman dropped as the club lumbered towards an inevitable relegation. He’d actually been a rare glimpse of quality in a declining Newcastle side, but as the club reached peak debility, so did he. That, and his insistence on claiming he should be playing somewhere far more glamourous, somewhere where Champions League football would finally allow him the opportunity to play at ‘his’ level.
The dream was always Arsenal, but after a spectacular show at the Euros, Real Madrid were rumoured to be interested. ‘I hope Real will come for me, I’m still waiting’. Words that would come to haunt the French winger. Not only did that stink of desperation, but it spoke volumes of his naivety in believing that Real Madrid, of all clubs in the world, would be the first to pinch a player who has not only been relegated from the Premier League with his club, but individually dropped and ousted. Somehow, his self-belief is admirable, but his manner almost the exact opposite.
He’s a management and PR tragedy, quite obviously misguided in every direction. His conduct at Newcastle, indisputably one of the most influential and largest clubs in England, was disrespectful. ‘I hope I’ll leave for a bigger club one day’. He wanted that club to the ‘beautiful Arsenal’. Again, words that would do him absolutely no favours. With Newcastle relegated, they were compliant to his sale, though it would go down the wire as the club did all they could to squeeze every last penny out of him- and probably to punish him. His agent was angry, knowing full well that clubs would be find it hard to reason spending anywhere close to £35m for his sporadic services. As the final hours of the window approached, it was Tottenham, then Everton, then Tottenham again.
Both clubs had put down offers of £30m almost completely borne out of that performance against Portugal. Surprisingly, Real Madrid’s interested cooled somewhat and it would be a choice between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur. ‘Why would I have joined Everton? Spurs are a bigger club’. If there was one player you could choose to mute, it might be him. His insistence on belittling big clubs publically continues to demonise him, even among his own fans. His agent should be culpable, too. Sissoko’s words are consistently catastrophic.
Now at Spurs, the shoe is on the other foot. He’s a joke figure nowadays. He has gone down in transfer lingo as a ‘flop’; one that Spurs will do well to get rid of this summer. That performance for France is the exception, the very best he could hope to occasionally achieve. At the time, it was thought of as a realisation of his potential, but absolutely not. Performances have, like at Newcastle, declined, withered out and perished. He hasn’t had a significant spell of 90 minutes under Pochettino, a manager renowned for reinvigorating careers. The trust isn’t there, but neither is the aptitude. Careers are usually done using stepping stones, but Sissoko is chancing his arm at the long jump.
Clearly, there is something, something that continues to see him linked with huge European clubs; the latest set being Barcelona, Real Madrid and AC Milan. Doubting his ability is perhaps unfair. What do external opinions mean if the player continues to be selected for national duty by Didier Deschamps? France are an international giant and those outside of the game could never quite know what a scout sees in a player. Both Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman saw that something. As a player, and whether he means to be or not, his style is enigmatic. You never know what’s next. His blatantly obviously poor first touch aside, he is a proficient runner and a man of sheer power. Simply, he gets the ball from one side of the pitch to the other. He plays with chalk on his boots, runs not past but through his man and if nothing else, provokes panic and chaos in opposition defences. You can’t prepare a line of defence a player of his nature. At time with Newcastle, it was effective. That hasn’t been the case in North London.
It’s not enough. You fear that even nine months after his transfer to Tottenham, his time there is at an end. Pochettino doesn’t really do patience. Sissoko has fluffed his lines on the big stage. His departure from then Championship side Newcastle was met with fan jubilation and Spurs were shamed for their transfer policy. Moussa Sissoko is still raw, but he shouldn’t be at 27 years old. Instead of spending his past couple of years trying to engineer a move to ‘bigger clubs’, his time would have been better served making efforts to reach the level reached with France.
‘I hope Real will come for me, I’m still waiting’.