Belfast Telegraph

How Cissé arrived at Newcastle

By Martin Hardy

Last Thursday, Papiss Demba Cissé arrived in the North-east of England for the second time in his life. The following day, he was driving around looking for a house. Come Sunday afternoon, at around three o'clock, he had a new home: St James' Park.

He drew a particularly pertinent piece of praise from his manager, Alan Pardew. "He is a genuine guy," he said. "This is a player who just wants to do well for Newcastle. He hasn't come here with any other agenda than to do well for us and he has had a great start."

After his match-winning debut as a substitute, scoring in the 71st minute to defeat Aston Villa, Cissé was relatively nonplussed. In a corridor at St James' Park, along from the home dressing room, he spoke to a local journalist through an interpreter, Olivier Bernard, the former Newcastle full-back. His English is not good but humility translates into any language.

Ten yards away, Demba Ba, his fellow Senagalese team-mate, was revealing his own part in how Cissé came to leave Frieburg and follow his path to Newcastle. "He talked to me before he signed a little bit," said Ba. "I just said to him, 'Go on, sign.' He asked everything about Newcastle – how were the supporters, how was the club?

"I've not told him everything because I want him to see for himself what it is like here. He's going to see it now. And he hasn't seen anything yet. I think he loved the reception he got.

"We're from the same country, we live the same way as well. Both of our parents are from Senegal, even though I grew up in France, I always lived like I was in Senegal. We couldn't believe what happened at the African Cup of Nations, but it happened and we just have to forget it, move forward and concentrate on making sure the season is a success for Newcastle now.

"I have told him everything about the No 9 shirt but I have also said it is just a number. It doesn't matter if you score or you don't score, it's just a number. As for the fee, he doesn't choose to pay it or demand that it is paid, it is the club that decides it so if something bad happens, which I hope it doesn't, it will not be down to him.

"He is a very quiet guy. All the fuss and hype will not affect him."

Cissé was 17 when he arrived in France, with Metz. Loan spells followed with Cherbourg and Chateauroux. For all three clubs he scored regularly, attracting the attention of SC Freiburg when he scored against them for Metz in a pre-season friendly. The Bundesliga side tried to sign him immediately but failed. Eventually, in December 2009 they got their man, paying £1.3m. That proved a particularly sound investment. Cissé would go on to break Tony Yeboah's record in Germany for the most goals in a single season by an African player. He would also break Freiburg's record for most goals in a single campaign, scoring 22 league goals in 2010-11 and pushing Mario Gomez, a player for whom Chelsea were reputedly prepared to pay £30m, close in the race for leading goalscorer.

Again, there was humility. "I never would have thought that I'd be competing with players like [Ruud] van Nistelrooy and Raul," he said at the time. "I still don't want to put myself in the same bracket as them now. I know my strengths and qualities. Ultimately it's just hard work every day."

Newcastle, like Freiburg before them, wanted Cissé in the summer. Like Freiburg they waited and were surprised and delighted when the door opened in January at a price that could eventually be £9m.

After his goal on Sunday, Cissé went into the Newcastle dressing room and shook the hand of everybody, players, back-room staff and the kitman. Being grounded is a theme. "The aim from now is to keep working hard in training," he said. "If I do that I would like to think that I can get more goals like that. Firstly, I have to work hard and get to know my team-mates. I'm happy with my first goal, but I have a lot of thank yous to give out. Firstly the club for signing me, my team-mates and to all of the fans who made it so memorable. When I signed for the club, to score in my first game was one of my aims. To do that is fantastic. I thank God for that."

Hot shot: Cisse's rise

2005 Cissé leaves Senegal to sign for FC Metz, and is promptly loaned to third-tier AS Cherbourg.

2007 His goals help Metz win Ligue 2, although they finish bottom of Ligue 1 the following season, as Cissé is loaned to LB Châteauroux.

2009 Back in Ligue 2 with Metz, he scores 15 goals in 2008-09. In December 2009 he is bought by the Bundesliga's SC Freiburg for £1.3m.

2011 In his first full season there, he is the Bundesliga's second-top scorer, with 22 in 32 league games.

2012 Cissé joins Newcastle after 37 goals in 65 Bundesliga games.

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