Jean-Alain Boumsong was a free agent in the summer of 2004 when he left French side Auxerre, for whom he’d made 133 league appearances in four years. Boumsong had been an impressive performer for the French side and was already a France international but there was an absence of clubs willing to take a risk on him even though he was available for free. Unproven out of France, Boumsong would represent a risk and it was one teams were reluctant to take.
Scottish side Rangers were the team that did take the risk on Boumsong and they signed him to boost Alex McLeish’s title chasing side. Boumsong quickly established himself as a first team regular at the club and put in a number of impressive performances, looking good in the air and solid in the tackle. So impressive was he that Newcastle manager Graeme Souness decided to splash out £8 million for him just six months after he’d arrived at Rangers. Yes, that’s right, Souness was paying a large fee for a player unproven in a big league who had only played for Rangers for a short period of time.
If Boumsong’s first couple of appearances for Newcastle were anything to go by then he wasn’t going to be a bad defender. Unfortunately for Newcastle fans, those early performances were not anything to go by and Boumsong quickly established himself as one of the biggest liabilities in the Premiership with mistake after mistake after mistake. Titus Bramble was renowned for making mistakes in the heart of Newcastle’s defence but Boumsong took it to a new level, outshining his defensive partner in being, well, crap. Unable to deal with the ball in the air, – despite his previous aerial presence with Rangers – possessor of a terrible first touch which opened chances for opposition and completely lacking concentration, Boumsong never looked like a Premiership player and it’s unsurprising that he was only given a year and a half at the club before being shipped off to recently relegated Italian side Juventus.
Boumsong has since reinvented himself with decent performances at Juve and then at French giants Lyon who he joined in 2008. Memories of his shambolic performances for Newcastle haven’t faded though and he is still regarded as a joke in England. Something that Boumsong himself believes to be unfair, he told the press after joining Juventus
“Above all I fell foul of the English press last season with Newcastle. It was relentless and even stupid. OK, I’m not Franz Beckenbauer. But, with time, I know better and better what I can do and what I cannot.”
Boumsong’s unwillingness to admit he was poor adds to the joke status he holds in the Premiership and his stock has certainly been lowered for proving a terrible waste of £8 million. With Boumsong and Bramble in their midst, Newcastle were in possession of one of the worst central defensive pairings in Europe and certainly one of the most costly partnerships. Bramble has since become a hero at Wigan, proving himself capable in the Premiership. The same cannot be said of Boumsong who is highly unlikely to even get another chance in the Premiership. Not that he’d probably want one though.