Gabriel Obertan arrived at Old Trafford at a time when the faithful were mourning about the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid in July 2009. The media saw the Frenchman as a possible replacement of the legendary Portuguese superstar. However, expectations of this size usually lead to even bigger disappointments.
Born in the picturesque Pantin in France, Obertan played youth football for PSG where he caught the eyes of several scouts before signing a contract with Bordeaux. He made his professional debuts at the young age of 17 and caught the eye immediately. He had bundles of pace and often displayed flashes of brilliance. Yet like so many similar players, he lacked the final product. Often the last pass, the decisive touch, the crucial turn became his biggest obstacle!
He did not receive enough playing time and was subsequently loaned out to Lorient in January 2009. During his loan spell at Lorient, Obertan made a total of 17 appearances and scored two goals.
Arrival at Old Trafford
Post his loan, Manchester United came knocking on the door: and when that happens nobody says no! He came to Manchester with a reported fee of £3 million and plenty of expectations. He suffered a training injury in his first week which kept him on the sidelines for a month.
After some reserves game time, he finally made his debut against Barnsley in the League Cup. In his first full season, he went on to make just 13 appearances, often disappointing when given a chance. Of course, there were moments of brilliance – like going past three players and teeing up Michael Owen for a simple tap-in against Wolfsburg in the Champions League. But overall he had an underwhelming season and failed to impress.
His second season at the club was very similar to his first. He made just 15 appearances all season and was one of the first players to be transfer listed. Newcastle came calling and he moved to St. James’ Park.
Newcastle escape route
His first two years at Newcastle were pretty good by his standards. He made a total of 48 appearances scoring two goals. Unfortunately for him, his luck with injuries worsened and he made just 27 appearances in the next three seasons. Alan Pardew was very hopeful of Obertan making an impact but unfortunately the impact was only negative. In May 2016, his contract was terminated and he was looking for another club.
In August 2016, he signed with Anzhi Makhachkala hoping to win some silverware. The move did not work out at all; he played just eight times and left the club in the winter transfer window after just six months in Russia. Championship strugglers Wigan Athletic signed Obertan on 31st January 2017, hoping to survive relegation. However post relegation, his contract was terminated and he once again became a free agent.
Throughout his career, he never delivered consistently and has suffered because of this. His story will always remain in the company of several others like him; good enough to play but not good enough to perform.