FFT's Jonathan Fadugba profiles Newcastle United new boy Emmanuel Riviere...
The 60-second story
When Brendan Rodgers sanctioned a £12 million move to take Daniel Sturridge to Liverpool, the gift of a guaranteed place in the starting line-up also came with a warning. “If he wants to stay at the top level, this is probably his last chance.”
Emmanuel Riviere won’t need reminding of the opportunity that has now been presented to him at Newcastle, but there is a sense that, after years of unfulfilled promise, the move to St James’ Park could be the one that defines his career.
Succeed and this will be Riviere’s coming of age: the realisation of his burgeoning potential – an outcome that would justify why he was for a long time considered one of the most gifted young marksmen in Europe.
Fail and the narrative will change, his perception scarred perhaps irrevocably. Riviere would drift dangerously close to the players’ boulevard of broken dreams, more ‘what if’ than ‘what a player.’ A £6m move to Tyneside hands Riviere the perfect platform to prove himself in front of an adoring Geordie public. It’s time to step up.
Why you need to know him
After Loic Remy’s highly successful loan deal came to an end Newcastle fans will be eager to know what they’re getting from their latest French import.
Alan Pardew’s team were heavily reliant on Remy last season. They lost 10 of the 12 games he missed through injury or suspension and with 14 goals he was responsible for 33% of Newcastle’s 43 in the league, making him more important to the Magpies, from a scoring point of view, than Luis Suarez was for Liverpool.
His loss will be keenly felt, especially as Riviere is not a like-for-like replacement. While Remy was more of a Cognac – smoother, subtle, more refined – Riviere is quite different. Stronger, rougher around the edges and less polished, the 24-year-old is more of a direct goal threat with less of Remy’s frills.
- Name: Emmanuel Riviere
- Age: 24 (3/3/1990)
- Place of Birth: Le Lamentin, Martinique
- Position: Striker
- Former clubs: Saint-Etienne, Toulouse, Monaco
- Club record: 182 apps, 46 goals
- Honours won: Ligue 2 (2012/13)
Riviere was born in the French Caribbean island of Martinique. He had a natural talent for football and after starring for Espoir Saint-Luce, a junior club on the Martiniquan south coast, he was spotted and signed by Saint-Etienne, after impressing at a cup competition held at Clarefontaine on the mainland.
Moving from the Caribbean to the cold climes of mainland France as a teenager proved challenging, but Riviere and his family embraced it and the striker rose through the ranks before signing his first professional contract in 2008. In the six-year spell since, however, while he has shown undoubted ability, there’s also been a great deal of inconsistency and frustration about his game. Riviere’s career to date has had two ‘Neo in the Matrix’ moments.
The first came in 2009/10 – his breakthrough season, when he featured in Saint-Etienne’s first team in part thanks to Bafetimbi Gomis’ crosstown move to Lyon (a neat symmetry, as Riviere’s transfer to Newcastle also came about largely due to Gomis’ long-touted move to Tyneside falling through).
Still a teenager, Riviere hit eight goals in 30 league appearances that season, his energy, vibrancy, hunger and eye for goal ultimately rewarded with a nomination for Ligue 1 Young Player of the Season. “A player to watch very closely,” declared Eurosport.
Highly-respected Spanish magazine Don Balon, now defunct, named Riviere in their annual list of top 100 young players in world football. He had the world at his feet.
Injuries and a tendency to drift out of games slowed his progress. Saint-Etienne cashed in, selling him to Toulouse for €7m a year later. This was serious money for TFC and big things were expected, but never really transpired. Their striker woes continued. Riviere was sold on to Monaco less than two years into a four-year contract and at a loss, a third club in three years only compounded by having to drop down a division.
Monaco were promoted the same season, however, and here came Riviere’s second Matrix moment. While the eyes of the football world looked to £50m Radamel Falcao to get goals in the Principality, Riviere had other ideas. By now less rising star, more forgotten man, Riviere used his 'Falcao wingman' status as an invisibility cloak, becoming the perfect foil.
He hit five goals in Monaco’s opening four games including the winner at Marseille and a hat-trick against Montpellier. “Last season he wasn’t good but this season he’s like a new player,” Monaco coach Claudio Ranieri enthused. Had the penny finally dropped for Riviere?
Not quite. After five goals in four games he would only score another five in the following 26 league games. Monaco became the third club in as many years to deem Riviere dispensible, accepting a surprisingly low offer from Newcastle.
For Newcastle the hope is Riviere’s all-action style will prove more effective in the Premier League than it did in France. Physically the 24-year-old seems made for English football. Quick, strong along the ground and a willing runner, Riviere is a very hard worker if not the most clinical finisher.
As a striker he likes to play on the shoulder of defenders, running in behind them to get on the end of through-balls – which is where fellow Newcastle new boy Remy Cabella should come in. Dangerous in the air with good upper body strength, the Premier League’s more rough and ready style will suit Riviere’s physique. He can also play out wide in a forward three, but is far better as a striker.
Newcastle supporters who look back on players like Peter Beardsley and Faustino Asprilla with fond memories shouldn’t expect anything like the same wizardry on the ball from Riviere.
The uncapped Frenchman is not one to beat a man with a flash of skill or a stepover (Andre-Pierre Gignac and Andre Ayew once mocked his touch after a goal against Marseille, though mainly out of bitterness) and his decision making in the final third and technique on the ball can often leave a little to be desired. Give him the service and he’ll be fine, but he is prone to missing big chances every now and then.
“We have looked at Emmanuel for a while and we know he will score goals for us,” raved Alan Pardew. “He is quick, hungry for success and will love having 50,000 Geordies cheering him on and singing his name. I am really looking forward to integrating Emmanuel in the group and cannot wait to see him in action for us.”
- Shooting 7
- Heading 7
- Passing 6
- Tackling 5
- Pace 7
- Dribbling 5
- Creativity 5
- Work-rate 7
Did you know?
Newcastle broke a top-flight record last season when 13 consecutive league goals between April and October 2013 were all scored by Frenchmen. ‘Le Toon’ smashed Arsenal’s previous best of 12 straight foreign scorers from the same country, and with the signings of Cabella and Riviere they could look to beat it next season.
What happens next?
Prove Pardew right, Mr. Riviere. The talent and application is there and now, playing in a great stadium packed to the rafters with passionate supporters (unlike his two previous clubs), Riviere also has the platform. What happens from here is up to him.