Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Charles N’Zogbia, left, who scored twice against former club Newcastle United recently, has the potential to make it to the top, according to Roberto Martinez, his Wigan Athletic manager.
Charles N’Zogbia, left, who scored twice against former club Newcastle United recently, has the potential to make it to the top, according to Roberto Martinez, his Wigan Athletic manager.
Charles N’Zogbia, left, who scored twice against former club Newcastle United recently, has the potential to make it to the top, according to Roberto Martinez, his Wigan Athletic manager.

Charles N'Zogbia: wagons circle on flying wing

A posse of Europe's big clubs continue to keep tabs on Wigan's French midfielder.

The recent history of French football has a surreal feel. As Raymond Domenech's bizarre reign as the national coach reached its tumultuous conclusion, an entire squad refused to train, four players were banned for a total of 25 games and every footballer selected for the World Cup was duly dropped.

And yet perhaps the most unreal moment did not occur in South Africa. When Laurent Blanc, the new coach, named his first side, there was an incongruous sight: a Wigan Athletic player among Les Bleus.

A historic first may also prove a last. The surprise is that Charles N'Zogbia has stayed at the DW Stadium for 19 months. The probability is that he will not remain for much longer. And yet, as with much else in his career, there is an element of the unusual in his transfer negotiations.

When he joined Wigan from Newcastle United in January 2009, it followed an announcement that he would not play for the Magpies again after Joe Kinnear, the manager, referred to him as "Charles Insomnia".

An unfortunate soundbite, it nonetheless symbolised the breakdown of his relationship with Kinnear. N'Zogbia was not alone in rebelling at Kinnear's antiquated methods.

It is not to his credit, however, that he went from saviour to pariah in the eyes of Alex McLeish within a matter of hours. The Birmingham City manager had spent seven months working on a £9 million deal (Dh52.2m) to sign the winger, a record for both clubs, only for N'Zogbia to attempt a little last-minute brinkmanship.

His request for more money, against the advice of his agent, prompted McLeish to cancel the deal and vow not to re-enter talks.

The 24-year-old can appear to lack common sense. Recognisable as Premier League footballers are, this is a man who sent a proxy to take the written part of his driving test. Predictably, the ploy failed. He was subsequently arrested.

So is he more trouble than he is worth? Plenty would argue not, given the armies of scouts who attend Wigan's games.

N'Zogbia's return to Newcastle on Saturday showcased his diverse range of skills. While Fabricio Coloccini's last-minute equaliser prevented his revenge mission being executed to perfection, a wonderful natural leap above the rather taller Mike Williamson brought Wigan's first goal, a shot of real venom and accuracy their second.

This is a footballer with effortless acceleration, allied with a left foot of real potency, a fine crosser who, over the past year, has developed into a goalscorer. A glorious winner against Arsenal and a man-of-the-match display against Liverpool last season showed a capacity to trouble the top teams.

As McLeish realised, he would have added another dimension to a workmanlike Birmingham side. As it is, N'Zogbia may have set his sights higher.

Roberto Martinez, his current manager, has encouraged his ambitions. He has overseen his development, too, with his policy of using his wingers "inside out" - the right-footed Hugo Rodallega starting on the left and N'Zogbia veering infield from an initial position on the opposite flank - both offering a third role he can fill, along with left midfield and left-back, and successfully confounding defenders.

Martinez has said: "It is quite clear the talent Charles has got. We will see him at the top of world football, there is no doubt."

If it sounded like hyperbole, it may not be. N'Zogbia was recently linked with Bayern Munich, last season's Champions League finalists. He has been watched by Marseille, Juventus and, before Rafa Benitez's departure, Liverpool (there is renewed speculation now Roy Hodgson may be granted a substantial transfer budget).

Given his technique and nationality (though there was a suggestion earlier this year that he could play for England), Arsenal are also mentioned. One certainty is that a former manager is interested. Steve Bruce took N'Zogbia to Wigan and would like a reunion. Only the need for a striker prevented him bidding in August although, as the Sunderland manager said then: "I would have loved to have brought Charles here but I signed him for £6.5m 18 months ago and he is going for more than £9m now."

That price may become higher yet. That it was proof of a fine investment in his time in Lancashire may be of scant consolation to Bruce. Because, barring any more disastrous attempts at negotiation, the atypical description "Charles N'Zogbia: Wigan and France" could require amending in January to incorporate a more glamorous employer.

sports@thenational.ae

Profile

Born May 28, 1986 in Harfleur (France) Position Winger

Clubs (league stats only) Newcastle United 118 games, 9 goals Wigan Athletic 50 games, 6 goals France 1 game, 0 goals

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Al Rayyan's Yakubu Ayegbeni, left, tries to escape the attention of Jazira's Khamis Ismail. Karim Jaafar / AFP Photo

Late strike puts Al Jazira on verge of qualifying for the last 16 of Asian Champions League

All to play for across East Asia during final round of group phase.

 Manchester City's Vincent Kompany reacts after being sent off by referee Lee Mason during their English Premier League soccer match against Hull City at the KC stadium in Hull, northern England March 15, 2014. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

Man City’s Manuel Pellegrini says Vincent Kompany is an important player

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini defends team captain and talks about team's injuries ahead of clash with Sunderland at home on Wednesday night.

 Supporters of China during the Asian Cup Qualifier match between Iraq vs China at Sharjah football stadium in Sharjah. Iraq won the match by 3-1. Pawan Singh / The National

Asian Cup expanding to 24 football teams in 2019

As part of a regional shake-up, the 2019 Asian Cup will climb to 24 teams but next month’s Challenge Cup in the Maldives will be the last, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced.

 Latifa Ali Al Shamsi of UAE fights compatriot Boshra Ghanem Al Zadjali in their 38.5kg match at the Junior World Jiu-Jitsu Championship. Christopher Pike / The National

Competitors at Abu Dhabi Junior World Jiu-Jitsu Championship target world domination

All of Wednesday’s winners at the tournament, being held in the UAE capital, are ambitious enough to target a black belt and reach the pinnacle of the sport, Amith Passela reports.

 Jacques Kallis top-scored with 72 for Kolkata Knight Riders against Mumbai Indians at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. Pawan Singh / The National

Kallis kicks off IPL 7 with fifty as Kolkata thrash Mumbai

South African legend shows class is permanent as Knight Riders beat defending champions by 41 runs. Osman Samiuddin reports from Abu Dhabi.

 Amir Khan, during a workout at the Gloves Community Centre on March 24, 2014 in Bolton, England, says his fight will be the real main event in Las Vegas on May 3. Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Amir Khan says bout with Luis Collazo ‘will steal the show’ in Las Vegas on May 3

British-Pakistani boxer Amir Khan says his fight with Luis Collazo will be the main attraction on same fight card led by Floyd Mayweather Jr and Marcos Maidana, writes Omar Al Raisi.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National