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Romain Amalfitano: Have Newcastle missed a trick?

Amidst the disappointment at the lack of arrivals at Newcastle United, one would think reducing the squad size could prove costly for the Tyneside club. Nevertheless, a number of fringe players have been sent out on loan in an attempt to develop their game and help them gain valuable playing time. Among those who secured loan moves away from Newcastle is one Romain Amalfitano.

Despite only signing for the club one year ago, he has failed to convince the Newcastle hierarchy that he is ready for the rigours of the Premier League. He moves on a season-long loan to Ligue 2 side Dijon FCO, but was he given a fair chance?

Amalfitano, 24, joined Newcastle in the summer of 2012 on a free transfer after his contract came to an end with his former employers, Stade de Reims. He made 68 appearances for the French club, scoring 10 goals in all competitions. In what would be his final season at the Stade Auguste Delaune, Amalfitano helped Reims reach a second place finish in the 2011-12 Ligue 2 campaign, achieving promotion to Ligue 1.

Signing for Newcastle was a significant step up from the second tier of French football, and the playmaker failed to make an impact, being handed only one start and three substitute appearances. Arguably, Amalfitano should have been given more opportunities at the club. In what proved to be a dismal season for Newcastle, the unenviable task of competing in the Europa League and Premier League with an already threadbare squad took it’s toll. The club was dealt serious blows with major and long-term injuries, seeing many senior players ruled out for months at a time. Younger, inexperienced players such as Gael Bigirimana, Sammy Ameobi and James Tavernier were called upon and were unable to stake a claim for a regular role in the team.

The lack of depth in Newcastle’s squad was plain to see during their 2-0 defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion in the FA Cup third round. Alan Pardew’s team was outclassed by the Championship side and reinforcements were duly made that January, with the club investing in no less than 5 players (all from Ligue 1). Prior to the influx of new French recruits in January, one Frenchman should almost definitely have been given a shot at proving himself. Amalfitano, instead, started just one game (a 0-0 draw against Madeira). Reasons behind the overlooking of the Châteauroux academy product still remain unknown.

In the same week that his brother, Morgan, made his cross-channel switch, moving from Marseille to West Bromwich Albion, Romain made the move to Dijon FCO. With question marks already hanging over Amalfitano’s ability, his loan move to the Ligue 2 side clearly indicates the level at which the Frenchman should be plying his trade. The player is agile with a sharp footballing mind, evidenced by the ease in which he often shook off defenders during his time at Reims to allow him the space to shoot. The 24 year old can play behind a lone striker or down the left wing, much like his brother. At the time of writing, Romain has played 3 games for Dijon with his confidence improving game by game. 

Having picked out some diamonds in the rough, chief scout Graham Carr, will have to accept that the recommendation of Amalfitano was potentially a poor one. The next step in Amalfitano’s career is difficult to second guess, but his future looks as though it lies away from the North East of England and Newcastle United are likely to offload the midfielder in the next 12 months. Whatever happens, this loan spell at Dijon will go someway to repairing the damage Newcastle have done to his confidence as well as his ability to grow as a player. His move to the Premier League appears to have been a classic case of a player moving on too early in his development. 

Guy Bell and Charles Stone, Get French Football News. 

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