Amalfitano becomes the Magpies' latest French connection


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The Independent Online

Newcastle United took the latest step in their successful French revolution yesterday when Romain Amalfitano arrived in the North-east to finalise a three-year contract. The Stade de Reims midfielder agreed in principle to move to Newcastle in February, and he returned to their Benton training ground to push through his transfer from the French side, who have just won promotion to Ligue 1.

Amalfitano, 22, has seen out his contract at Reims, which has appealed to Newcastle officials as they push ahead with the astute transfer policy put in place by the owner, Mike Ashley, right, and successfully consolidated through the chief scout, Graham Carr.

Newcastle have seven France-born players, ranging from first-teamers such as Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa to youngsters such as Yven Moyo and Mehdi Abeid. They believe the market in France offers far better value for money, with salaries in the French top division for the season 2010-11 half those in the Premier League.

As examples, Cabaye and Ben Arfa, who were key players in the club's eventual fifth-place finish in the Premier League to earn qualification for the Europa League, cost far less than £10m in total, arriving from Lille and Marseilles respectively. Newcastle will not end their interest in France with Amalfitano's signing, either, as they hope to buy two more players from Ligue 1 during the summer window.

The club have already been involved in talks with the sought-after Montpellier defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. The 23-year-old has just helped his team land the title in France, for the first time.

There is also an approach to Lille to sign their full-back Mathieu Debuchy. The 26-year-old, who joined the club as an eight-year-old, is a good friend of Cabaye and that is seen as a huge advantage to Newcastle as they search for a new right-back.

The three moves continue what Newcastle now believe to be a far superior model to that which was used when Ashley bought the club in 2007. Carr has a deep knowledge of French and Dutch football and has pinpointed a handful of players he believes are ready to make an impact in England.

One player who could yet return – and in doing so highlights why they adopted their current market policy – is the Spanish forward Xisco, signed on the recommendation of Dennis Wise in 2008. Xisco was loaned to Deportivo La Coruña last season, but as there is no desire to make the deal permanent (he earns £2.5m a year) he could play out his last 12 months.