Olivier Bernard

In the latest of an occasional feature on nufc.co.uk, we pick our top five on a host of Newcastle United topics. To mark the Magpies' French influx, DAN KING recalls some of the most memorable Gallic players to grace St. James' Park...

Mathieu Debuchy, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Yoan Gouffran, Massadio Haidara and Moussa Sissoko have all signed for Newcastle this month and there is now undoubtedly a French flavour at St. James' Park.

But that's nothing new - some of the club's best-loved players in recent years have came from across the channel.

Not all of United's buys from France have been a success, of course - David Terrier and Franck Dumas' impact on Tyneside was minimal while Stephane Guivarc'h won't go down as one of the great Magpies strikers.

However, the likes of Sylvain Distin, Antoine Sibierski, Louis Saha, Didier Domi, Laurent Charvet and Charles N'Zogbia all had plenty of fans at Newcastle... and none of them even make our top five. Here are our favourites.

Number five - Olivier Bernard

It took a loan spell at Darlington before Olivier Bernard established himself at Newcastle, but he went on to make more than 100 Premier League appearances for the Magpies before returning for a second spell at the end of his career and few French players have embraced life on Tyneside in the same way as the dreadlocked left-back.
The Parisian still lives in the North-East of England and works for Show Racism the Red Card, regularly visiting local schools to educate youngsters, and previously ran a crepe shop in his adopted city.
Joining United from Lyon in 2000, he initially struggled to break into the side but a sparkling spell at Feethams with the Quakers catapulted him into Sir Bobby Robson's plans and he became a regular as Newcastle finished third, fourth and fifth in successive seasons as well as playing in Europe.
In 2005 he joined Southampton after a contract dispute before signing for Rangers, but the following year he returned to St. James' Park - although failed to make an appearance. 

Yohan Cabaye

Number four - Yohan Cabaye

A summer 2011 signing from Lille, where he had just lifted the Ligue 1 title in his homeland, Yohan Cabaye was already a full French international when he arrived on Tyneside but has grown into one of Les Bleus' most important players over the last few months.
His first goal was a spectacular late winner against Wigan and while his Gallic good looks won him plenty of female admirers, the beauty of his football earned him the respect of male fans of not only Newcastle but clubs across the country.
Last summer, his stock rose even higher when he was one of France's star players in the European Championships and this season he gave United the lead against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light in a 1-1 draw.
A two-month absence through injury in recent weeks further highlighted his importance to the team and he returned earlier this month, scoring against Reading in the Magpies' last game.  

Laurent Robert

Number three - Laurent Robert

Robert spent five years at St. James' Park after arriving from Paris St. Germain in 2001 and he packed plenty into that time, with long-range strikes interspersed with bust-ups with local journalists before he marked the end of his Newcastle career by stripping down to his underpants on the pitch as he gave away his kit to fans.
He helped the club qualify for the Champions League in his first season and formed a formidable partnership on the left with fellow countryman Olivier Bernard before falling out with manager Graeme Souness and heading out on loan to Portsmouth.
Famous for his free-kicks, perhaps his greatest performance in black and white came in a 4-0 win over Tottenham in 2003 where he scored twice. But sometimes he didn't play quite so well, and once squared up to then-Evening Chronicle writer Alan Oliver after receiving a low mark in one of his match reports.
With 30 goals from the left wing in 129 league appearances, however, his average rating was fairly high. 

Hatem Ben Arfa

Number two - Hatem Ben Arfa

A double leg-break following a horror tackle from Manchester City's Nigel de Jong in one of his first games hindered Hatem Ben Arfa's Newcastle career, but he has bounced back stronger than ever and is well on his way to becoming a genuine club legend.
Long regarded as one of the best young players in France, his early career had been dogged by controversy but he has made headlines for all the right reasons at St. James' Park. He initially arrived on loan from Marseille in August 2010 and scored a stunning winner on his debut at Everton.
Then came that long-term injury but Alan Pardew showed his faith in the player by making his transfer permanent while he was still recovering. And after being slowly integrated back into the team following his return, Ben Arfa burst into life in the second part of last season.
Goals against Blackburn in the FA Cup and Bolton in the Premier League saw him dribble past entire defences while he started the current campaign with two goals in the first three league games.

David Ginola

Number one - David Ginola

Signed by Kevin Keegan in 1995, Ginola came to epitomise the 'Entertainers' era with his dazzling skills, accurate crosses and flowing locks. Few players could get away with starring in a shampoo advert but this man really was worth it.
He helped Newcastle finish second in his first season, with the Magpies almost winning the title before being pipped by Manchester United, and the Magpies were runners-up in his second campaign too. He was on target in the historic 5-0 win over the Red Devils that term.
Alas, his face didn't seem to fit under Kenny Dalglish once the Scot replaced Kevin Keegan and Ginola went to Tottenham, where was voted the PFA Players' Player of the Year in 1999. But although he won the League Cup at White Hart Lane and was inducted into Spurs' hall of fame, he is best known for his time on Tyneside and if any of Newcastle's new arrivals can come close to matching him it truly would be a rĂ©alisation magnifique.

What do you think? Do you disagree with our order? Have we made a glaring omission? Let us know at website@nufc.co.uk