In 2012, just three years after being relegated from the Premier League, Newcastle finished fifth in the top flight to secure their return to European football.
It was a seismic achievement for the club that had been reeling under owner Mike Ashley for years, but backing him up was always going to be a challenge with such a small squad.
Magpies boss Alan Pardew needed to turn to the transfer market to strengthen his squad and, with the help of chief scout Graham Carr, father of comedian Alan Carr, Newcastle opted for a French Revolution.
After bringing in Romain Amalfitano from Stade Reims in July 2012, Newcastle fully committed to their French project in the following January window, bringing in no less than five players from Ligue 1.
Moussa Sissoko, Mathieu Debuchy, Yoan Gouffran, Massadio Haidara and center back Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa came on.
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (back right) was part of the Newcastle French Revolution during 2013.
He signed for £7 million after winning Ligue 1 with Montpellier just over six months earlier.
However, he recently turned his back on football, after leaving Lyon more than three years ago.
Not much was known about the quintet when they arrived in England, but Yanga-Mbiwa was seen as an interesting prospect, having won Ligue 1 with Montpellier just over six months earlier.
He also made his France debut in September 2012, and landing the 23-year-old international for £7m mid-season seemed like a good deal for Newcastle.
Yanga-Mbiwa quickly slotted into Newcastle’s starting XI and steered the team away from the threat of relegation after a difficult start to the season, with Pardew’s men finishing five points clear of the bottom three.
Could he build on his initial promise?
Not precisely. Yanga-Mbiwa made 23 league appearances in his first full season at St James’ Park, but struggled to consistently maintain a place in the team.
Newcastle finished mid-table, but Yanga-Mbiwa had begun to fall down the pecking order and was loaned to Serie A side Roma in September 2014.
Four months later, the move was made permanent, with the French defender leaving Tyneside after playing just 46 times for Newcastle.
His time in Rome saw him play in the Champions League and he even faced Barcelona’s Lionel Messi during a pre-season friendly, but it proved to be a brief stay in the Italian capital.
Yanga-Mbiwa spent a year in Serie A, where he played for Italian side Roma.
He faced Lionel Messi during a pre-season friendly in one of his last games for Roma
Less than a year after joining the club, he was sold to Lyon.
Returning to his homeland to play for one of France’s top clubs, Yanga-Mbiwa looked like he had a real chance to kick-start his career once again.
And he featured regularly in his first two seasons, with Lyon finishing second and fourth, respectively, in Ligue 1.
But after making just two appearances in the first half of the 2017-18 season, Yanga-Mbiwa missed the team for most of the campaign, and was only limited to a handful of reserve games as he finished out the final days. of his contract before stepping away from the sport in 2020.
His last senior outing was in November 2017, and it appeared to be the last we would see of Yanga-Mbiwa on a football pitch.
Yanga-Mbiwa moved to Lyon in 2015 and finished second behind PSG in his first season.
He featured regularly for the team in his first two seasons, but then fell out of favor.
Yanga-Mbiwa played his last senior game for Lyon in 2017, but remained until his contract expired in 2020.
At 34 years old, he has made a surprise return by signing for Istres, a French fifth division club.
The little-known team is based in the south of France and played in Ligue 1 in 2004-05, but were relegated after just one season.
They last participated in Ligue 2 in 2014, but were relegated to the seventh tier the following year due to financial problems.
They have since started to rise and have done enough to tempt Yanga-Mbiwa to pull on the boots again.
Explaining his decision to effectively come out of retirement after seven years away from senior football, Yanga Mbiwa said: ‘The project is interesting and I wanted to return to the field. “I will contribute my experience and transmit it to young people.”
When asked what he had been doing to keep busy in recent years, he added: “After Lyon, I rested and enjoyed my family and friends.”
Yanga-Mbiwa slotted straight into Istres’ starting XI on Saturday as they recorded a 2-0 away win at Lucciana.
Yanga-Mbiwa’s Instagram suggests the defender has remained in good condition in recent years.
He has now returned to play in the French fifth division with Istres after seven years away from senior football.
That victory means Istres are now four points clear at the top of the Championnat National 3 Group A table with a game in hand over their closest rivals.
Yanga-Mbiwa could now be instrumental in their promotion push as they aim to return to France’s top divisions.
It has been a long journey for Yanga-Mbiwa, from becoming Ligue 1 champion at 23 to playing in the Premier League, Serie A and Champions League, to disappearing when most players were coming into their age. best moment.
But he is back and now has the chance to show that he still has a lot to offer.