Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

As a toddler, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and his family uprooted from Bagui in the Central African Republic to Port-de-Bouc, near Marseille. It was a bold move but one which ultimately paid off.

Yanga-Mbiwa soon discovered a talent for football, joined Montpellier as a teenager and went on to become a full international and a Ligue 1 winner. Now, with his transfer to Newcastle United, the 23-year-old has made another bold move.

"It's like a child who one day grows up and has to fly the nest, if you like," he told nufc.co.uk moments after completing his medical and signing a five-and-and-a-half year contract at the Magpies' training ground on Tuesday evening.

This time he will settle into his new surroundings without any of his family but, such is the growing Gallic influence at St. James' Park, it's unlikely to take him long to feel at home.

And, in an exclusive first interview, the defender revealed how the club's burgeoning reputation in France persuaded him to say 'oui' when Alan Pardew came calling this month.

He admitted: "It was a difficult decision (to leave Montpellier); it was the club that trained me, the club where I made my debut, where I got into the first team and where we won the championship.

"So it was difficult to leave, but Newcastle held out their hand to me, they welcomed me. One day I had to leave and it has always been a dream to come and play in England.

"First of all Newcastle really showed that they wanted me a lot which was something that was obviously very important in me coming to Newcastle.

"Secondly, there were a lot of other French players here which is something which really helped me since I don't know England too well. It helps me to settle into life here and to get used to football in this country.

"And also, very importantly, Newcastle is a massive club and it's an honour to be here.

"It attracts a lot of French players and it appeals to a lot of French players because of their style of play and also because of the wonderful team spirit that they have here at Newcastle, which is very good for French players. So I'm really looking forward to coming here and discovering that for myself."

Yanga-Mbiwa, who has three caps for Les Bleus, has watched from afar as Yohan Cabaye has grown into an established international after swapping Lille for Tyneside 18 months ago and Hatem Ben Arfa forced his way back into the France set-up ahead of the last European Championships following a long absence.

Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa undergoes his medical

Fellow January signing Mathieu Debuchy is also a regular for his country and Yanga-Mbiwa - who will wear what he hopes will be a lucky number 13 for United - aims to follow in their footsteps.

"Those players you mentioned are an integral part of the new French team that is coming through now," he said. "They're the main players who are chosen first to play for France, basically.

"So I think it is important for me to continue to be able to play with these players so they can help me to make progress in my own game - and yes, why not to continue playing for France, which is also one of my own targets and objectives."

Before that, however, the young man who 'flew the nest' will look to adjust to the third big move of his short life. And for now, he's flying solo. 

"First of all I think I've got quite a big challenge here at Newcastle to focus on - to give my maximum effort, concentration and involvement to the team and to play football," he said.

"My family told me that they understand what I'm doing isn't easy and they're very understanding. They told me to take my time to really focus on my football. Then once I'm stable, once I'm settled in and everything is better, they will gradually come over and spend time with me."

Click here to buy a Newcastle United shirt with Yanga-Mbiwa's name and number on the back