In January 2013, Newcastle signed Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.
The French defender cost £6.7 million from Montpellier, arriving as part of Alan Pardew’s French revolution. That January we also signed Mathieu Debuchy, Yoan Gouffran, Moussa Sissoko and Massadio Haidara.
Yanga-Mbiwa was the most expensive signing, but potentially had the biggest boots to fill. At the time of his arrival, club captain Fabricio Coloccini was pining for a departure, and seemed likely to get it. Newcastle had a ready-made replacement who could slot into his position with ease.
The big problem was that Coloccini didn’t leave, meaning Yanga-Mbiwa had no one to replace. Instead of being a guaranteed starter, he’d fill in gaps in defence, even playing at left-back.
After a season and a half at St James’ Park, Yanga-Mbiwa was on the move. He’d join Roma on loan before a permanent move to the Serie A giants. He would spend just 12 months in Italy before returning to France in August 2015, this time with Lyon.
From bad to worse for Yanga-Mbiwa
How’s he done in Ligue 1? Not very well. He was in the first-team picture during the first two years at Lyon, but is now nowhere to be seen.
He played in two league games in the 2017/18 season, but those seem to be his last recorded competitive appearances. A 4-1 defeat to Montpellier in the cup in December 2017 appears to be his last piece of action. According to Footmercato, he was banished to the reserves under the previous manager.
This summer he played 61 minutes in a friendly against Arsenal, but that’s as good as it’s got. His contract expires in 2020, and it’s hard to picture him extending his stay.
While Newcastle’s current defenders thrive, Yanga-Mbiwa must sit and wonder what would’ve happened had Coloccini left that summer. He could still have been a Newcastle regular, an experienced leader at the back. But alas, he remains out of the picture at Lyon.