Signed as a replacement for Toon cult hero Hatem Ben Arfa, Thauvin was unable to make a positive impression at St James’ Park. He failed to record a single goal or assist during the short-lived stint.
Granted, the move to the North East should never have happened. Marseille were in dire financial traits and the £15million sale of the winger was about raising much-needed funds.
The 27-year-old has excelled since his full-time return to the south of France, finishing as the club’s top scorer in 2017/18 and 2018/19.
Thauvin has quickly regained the trust of the fans at the Stade Vélodrome. Although, his impressive 2017/18 campaign went slightly under-the-radar as it marked the return of fan favourite Dimitri Payet.
With the pressure off, Thauvin shone. The winger scored 25 goals in all competitions, including goals in both the quarter-finals and semi-finals during Marseille’s run to the UEFA Europa League final.
Thauvin’s impressive exploits earned him a place in France’s 23-man squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup where he received a winners' medal after making the one appearance in the 4-3 last-16 victory over Argentina.
Since then, Thauvin has continued to grow. He finished the 2018/19 season as Ligue 1’s fourth-highest scorer with 16 goals in 33 appearances, including a remarkable hat-trick in a 3-1 win against Amiens. Thauvin has also adopted a knack for creating chances, recording 26 assists between 2017 and 2019.
Deployed as the right-winger in a 4-3-3 at Marseille, Thauvin has drawn similarities with former Bayern Munich icon Arjen Robben for his tendency to cut inside onto his favoured left foot.
Yet, his game is so much more than that. Thauvin’s inexplicable raw pace has given Ligue 1 defenders headaches for the past three seasons, as he makes runs off of target-men Valère Germain and Darío Benedetto.
He has also shaken off his one-trick pony tag by becoming completely unpredictable as a wideman. On numerous occasions, Thauvin has used his speed to beat a defender and get to the by-line, before delivering inviting crosses into the box with his weaker foot.
Upon the termination of the current Ligue 1 season, it was confirmed Marseille would be playing UEFA Champions League football next season for the first time in seven years. Something which Thauvin has expressed his desire since returning to the club where he has reinvigorated his career.
However, that dream is looking increasingly unlikely for Thauvin as he is entering the final year of his contract. Cash-strapped Marseille are once again looking to recover a deficit in their Financial Fair Play balance and have made it clear that they will not be allowing their prized asset to leave on a free transfer next summer.
Both Milan and Internazionale are rumoured to be keen admirers of the winger. Yet, both clubs possess an abundance of riches in Thauvin’s position, which could potentially lead to a limited amount of game time. This is something which the 27-year-old wishes to avoid as he hopes to make it into Didier Deschamps’ squad for next summer’s UEFA European Championships.
And with one of the continent’s most deadly wingers likely up for sale this summer, clubs around Europe could do far worse in their search for a new wideman.