To that end, five new players arrived on Tyneside in January 2013, and all of them were French; Mathieu Debuchy, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Yoan Gouffran, Massadio Haidara and Moussa Sissoko. Newcastle played Southampton at home and it was declared France Day. The tricolour flew and even the famous Strawberry pub, tucked away behind the Gallowgate End, changed its name to La Fraise.
La Liga (where the collective wage bill of those sides competing was less than half its rivals in the Premier League) was the ideal shopping ground for Ashley as he looked to make Newcastle competitive without the financial mite to challenge those at the very top of the domestic game.
More than anything though, Newcastle wanted a bargain centre forward; somebody young, quick and who could score goals. Demba Ba had arrived from West Ham in the summer of 2011 and excelled, scoring 16 Premier League goals in his first full season. In January 2013, after Harry Redknapp let it be known there was a clause in his contract, Rafa Benitez, then managing Chelsea and with a gruelling Europa League campaign to take part in (and win), activated it with a £7 million offer.
Papiss Cisse, who had arrived 12 months earlier, was finding goals more difficult to come by, so Carr was back in France looking for goals.
By this time an African forward at Saint Etienne had caught his eye, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Aubameyang had been in France for five years. Carr, and his team of scouts, tipsters and taxi drivers throughout the country, had the full lowdown on the centre forward from Gabon.
He had spent a season on loan at Dijon in 2008/09 and reached double figures but spells at Lille and Monaco had not worked out and it wasn’t until his second season at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard that the goals flowed and Carr felt he was ready for England and the physicality of English football.
In two campaigns Aubameyang had scored 41 league and cup goals for AS and that ensured he was no longer the kind of hidden jewel Ashley sought, but the club still made their move in the summer of 2013 to bring the striker, who had just turned 24 (Newcastle’s rigid policy was to buy players under 25) to the north-east.
“My dream has always been to play in one of the top two leagues in the world,” Aubameyang said on June 27, 2013. "Newcastle is a good club and St James's Park is a monumental stadium where there is passionate fans."
Ashley at that point had held a transfer meeting with his board and had given the green light for a bid that was reported at the time as being around £15 million.
Unknown to Carr, Ashley, and the then Newcastle manager, Alan Pardew, Aubameyang’s father was to hold the key card for his son’s move.
Borussia Dortmund and their Gegenpressing had won the Bundesliga and lost the final of the Champions League to Bayern Munich at Wembley. Newcastle had reached the quarter-final of the Europa League, but had finished a disappointing 16th in the Premier League. They offered more money but the player’s father, also called Pierre and a former Gabon international himself, believed Klopp would offer better development for his son.
“I received an offer (in 2012) from Qatar of 10m euros a year and if I had accepted, then my family would have been set up for life,” the younger Pierre Aubameyang said.
“Instead we chose to stay at St Etienne, where I got 70,000 Euros per month, knowing that with my ability, I could earn money later.
“The following season, St Etienne wanted to sell me to Newcastle but we opted for Dortmund, finalist in the Champions League because my father studied Jurgen Klopp’s game, even though the money was lower.”
On July 4, Aubameyang was unveiled as a Dortmund player.
"We are very pleased that in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang we were able to sign a player we really wanted," said the Dortmund sporting director, Michael Zorc. "He is offensively very versatile, has a lot of pace in his game, is a threat in front of goal and will provide us with more options."
Newcastle still went with a player they had scouted extensively in France, Loic Remy, who had joined Queens Park Rangers rather than Newcastle six months earlier. Remy would shine, scoring 14 Premier League goals from 26 starts.
In the summer of 2017, with Newcastle back in the Premier League, Remy was offered back to the club, with his career in decline. Aubameyang by then had scored 120 goals for Borussia. Four-and-a-half years after Newcastle made their move, the Gabon forward will finally arrive in England.
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