Newcastle defender Massadio Haïdara: 'Callum McManaman tackle could have ruined my life'
Newcastle United defender Massadio Haïdara last night voiced his astonishment that Callum McManaman would not face a Football Association ban for the horrific knee-high challenge on him – a decision he said was "hard to swallow" and meant the Wigan midfielder would be back playing before he would.
"I don't understand," the 20-year-old said from his home on Tyneside. "His tackle could have ended my career and ruined my life but in the end he will play football before me. We have to protect the players. I don't want to change the physical mentality, pace and commitment of football in England but we can't tolerate tackles like this in football."
In an interview with Le Parisien which reveals the France Under-21 international to be a thoughtful, articulate young player, Haïdara declares that a second series of scans has shown up no damage to his knee ligaments or broken bones in the leg – and that he escaped with substantial bruising to his left leg.
But the psychological effect of the tackle, in which Haïdara says McManaman was on to him like a "bombe" (missile), will clearly be far harder to deal with when he returns, possibly in two or three weeks. "I feel the need to be cautious and don't want to go back too fast," said Haïdara, who was signed from the Nancy academy by Newcastle. "I will be apprehensive. It will be normal. I can't let it impede the way I naturally play. I can't dwell on what's happened. I will get back on to my feet. I have to."
The defender, who grew up in the same Trappes district of Paris as Nicolas Anelka, was told yesterday that McManaman wishes to meet him and Haïdara is willing to do so next week. "There is the difficulty of the language barrier but I think we will try to see each other with an interpreter."
He says he bears the Merseyside-born winger no anger. "In the moment, I was really, really angry with him. I thought he had stopped my career. Now I feel differently and just hope that this will give him a lesson and that next time he will know how to stop himself."
But Haïdara is baffled by Wigan chairman Dave Whelan's claims on Monday, that McManaman had taken the ball "clean as a whistle".
Haïdara said: "I understand how he wants to defend his player but you have to be fair and honest. You just have to watch the footage and see the photographs to understand. People will make their own judgement but I don't want to be at war with Wigan now."
The French nation has shared Britain's revulsion at the tackle – and the FA's reluctant acceptance that Fifa-enforced regulations prevent a retrospective three-game ban.
Haïdara said that there must be zero tolerance of challenges like Sunday's and the notorious tackle by Nice midfielder Valentin Eysseric which broke the leg of Saint-Etienne's Jérémy Clément. "We have to do everything to banish these. The authorities have to do something," Haïdara said. Eysseric was banned for 11 matches.
Of the challenge itself, he said: "I've not forgotten anything. I can still picture it, frame by frame, in my head. The ball arrived. I controlled it. I thought I would have the time to dribble past him but he arrived like a missile on me.
"Everything was going so quickly. I didn't think he would tackle me, but even less at that height of my knee. Then I felt his studs on my leg – and straight away the terrible pain.
"I really thought my leg was broken. I was in so much pain I couldn't think of anything. I was completely shocked – I still am, to be fair – and I started thinking about my career and everything. I thought I would not play football again or never be back 100 per cent.
"Once you're in the ambulance you start thinking about your family," Haïdara added. "I knew that my brother was watching the game live so I just imagined what he would feel when he saw the tackle.
"I have to say I've never seen such a tackle in football in my life. I shudder every time I think about it."
Belfast Telegraph Digital