City boss Peter Grant this afternoon turned to the French Foreign Legion to add a bit of Gallic steel to his midfield – while insisting that there was still room at the inn for Canary playmaker Youssef Safri.
Unless, of course, the 30-year-old Moroccan playmaker fancied his own new adventures in foreign lands. In the Black Country, for example.
One-time Inter Milan midfielder Julien Brellier – nicknamed 'The Judge' in his more recent existence in the heart of the Hearts midfield – became Grant's fourth signing of the summer after the 25-year-old arrived from Tynecastle on a free transfer and agreed a two-year deal with the Championship club.
With Czech striker David Strihavka and David Marshall both understood to be there or thereabouts, the Canaries are currently rolling out new face a day following yesterday's return of Jamie Cureton to the City fold.
It is where Brellier's arrival might leave Safri that is the fascinating question – facing some stiff competition for the holding role alongside Dickson Etuhu would be one answer.
“I've seen the links as well,” said Grant this afternoon, when quizzed about those rumours of a switch to The Hawthorns – that people were, according to the Birmingham Mail, discussing the “feasibility” of a move.
“But I've not spoken to Youssef through the summer time because obviously he's been away and I've given him an extra week.
“But Youssef's been linked with a few clubs before – even before I got here – and some of it was obviously just speculation. Other clubs have enquired about him when he was in and out of the side.
“So at this moment in time there's nothing to report on.”
Listen to Grant's thoughts on the new player and if you go back to that “2004 title blueprint” it certainly sounds as if Brellier is far nearer the Gary Holt model than the Safri one – that he plays with higher energy, higher up the pitch. The questions as to where that leaves Safri were inevitable.
“As I say, I'm looking at it that Youssef Safri is going to be part of our squad. But I was looking the same way with Earnie (Robert Earnshaw) – and I know what happens in football. Things go on behind your back and sometimes you've got to accept it and get on with it.
“I'm looking to build a team and if Youssef is part of that, I'll be absolutely delighted.
“If he decides to choose to move on because he wants to try different things then that's part of his decision. But the most important thing for me is that the players here want to play here.”
As for the new-boy, his whole-hearted approach to the game, his reported willingness to chase and harry every midfield cause not only smacked of Holt, but one P Grant himself.
It's knowing how to win games when playing badly, how to get ahead and stay ahead, how to close both games and teams out – all the kind of classic, continental traits that Grant is looking for Brellier to provide. All now wrapped up in the kind of competitive cloak that two seasons in the Scottish Premier League that his spell at Tynecastle provides.
“He's a better player than me,” laughed Grant.
“There's no doubt about that. I love competitive people. That's important – and that's one thing I want the team to be is competitive.
“That anyone who comes here I want them to go away knowing that they have been in a game.
“But there is no doubt that he is a better passer than I was – he's probably as tactically aware as I was. Because I like to think that was one of my strengths – in that I understood the game well; could understand other players positionings.
“So, yes, there's that part of him that I like, but as I say I think he's a better passer.”
City No2 Jim Duffy was clearly a key player in the deal in that he had Brellier under him in his ill-fated spell at Tynecastle under the colourful reign of the Romanov clan.
Out of contract and 25, the Frenchman clearly had little intention of staying put and it was much to Grant and Duffy's delight that they stepped in and secured his signature with apparently relevant ease – certainly compared to the protracted chase of Marshall.
A Gallic Gary Holt is certainly a possibility given Grant's description – whether he has the famed three lungs of the former City workhorse will be something to watch for over the forthcoming months.
“He's very much a competitor,” said Grant. “Great experience – he was at Milan as a youngster. He's played in France; he's played in Italy.
“And he's obviously played in Scotland which is important for me because he understands what that takes – it's very competitive game up there. And he'sbeen successful up there,” said the City, with Brellier having a Scottish Cup final medal to his name.
“Hearts won the FA Cup in his first season and I think that tells you the type of player that he is.
“And I think tactically he'll be somebody that will endear himself to the support because of the competitive edge that he has. He gives 100 per cent in every game; loves to tackle.
“But the most important thing is than when he tackles, he uses the ball well. He's one of these players that understands the game and is different from the midfield players that we have.
“And, as I say, I'm sure the fans will warm to him. With his style of player, he'll endear himself to the Norwich City supporters.”
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