Newcastle United’s strategy to corner the French market looks to bear further dividend with a summer approach for Montpellier star Younes Belhanda.
The French-born attacking midfielder, who plays internationally for Morocco, has been in sensational form this season for the Ligue 1 surprise leaders and has already attracted serious interest from Arsenal.
The Gunners however are now concentrating their attentions on Belhanda’s club team-mate Oliver Giroud leaving the path clear for Alan Pardew to make his move.
Pardew, along with his chief scout Graham Carr, have received wide praise for their transfer dealings in recent times often purchasing fantastic players for bargain fees by targeting the lesser-exploited areas of the French, Dutch and German markets.
They have experienced particular joy in France and their astute policy has previously unearthed a rich seam of talent that includes Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa and Sylvian Marveaux.
The 22 year old Belhanda could now add to the ever-growing French contingent at St James’ Park with a bid in the region of £12m muted for a player who has been compared to Robert Pires in his playing style.
Belhanda though is harder to pin down on a singular comparison possessing as he does a versatility born from starting his career as a defensive-minded midfielder.
It was only at the start of this present campaign that Montpellier boss Rene Girard handed him the number 10 shirt and switched him to a playmaker role. Since then Benhanda has found another level of excellence and has been a pivotal figure in the provincial side’s historic title fight with the super-rich PSG. Whether the fairytale has a happy ending – and all but St Germain fans in France hope that it does – the club can surely expect to lose some of their best personnel this summer with Giroud and Belhanda topping the list of those expected to depart.