Jack Pierce watched Sunday's France game - a match Yohan Cabaye was prominent in - and reflects on what his signing means to Palace.
'Cor, he's good. Who does he play for?'
I doubt the answer to that question during a group game at a major tournament has often been Crystal Palace but last night, it was.
Yohan Cabaye was absolutely superb at the base of the French midfield last night and despite the presence of his esteemed colleagues, Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann, two of European football's most fancied talents, it was our Yohan that was, by most accounts, the man of the match.
Palace's record signing hadn't had a sniff of game time in France's first two games and given N'Golo Kante's wonderful season, who could blame Dider Deschamps for choosing the Leicester man ahead of Cabaye? However, with Kante sitting on a booking and at risk of suspension for the Last 16 tie, Deschamps named Cabaye in the starting 11 among a number of changes to the French side.
Both with and without the ball, Cabaye impressed. His calmness when in possession is known already but to see a Palace player ooze such class on the highest stage really is a sight for sore eyes. A lot of Palace fans were surprised his defensive play was as effective as it is and last night was another demonstration of how good he is at reading the game. Time after time, it was Cabaye sniffing out promising Swiss moves. His stats after the game emphasised how impressive he was throughout the 90 minutes.
The midfielder’s move to Palace surprised a few, Palace fans included, but it basically boiled down to the following conversation with his national manager at the end of the 2014/15 season:
Deschamps: Yohan, if you want to be in the squad for a European Championship in your home country, you've got to be playing more games.
Cabaye: I know, gaffer but PSG play a lot of games so I'm surely going to get games.
Deschamps: No Yohan, I mean every game.
Cabaye: Oh. Well, where shall I go?
Deschamps: How about England? Your old boss, 'Super Al', has taken over at Crystal Palace and they're flying under him. They've also got absolutely amazing fans who would come up with a hilarious chant for you in no time and I’ve heard that South London is theirs.
Cabaye: J’aime Alan. Despite being a little morally corrupt, he let me take all the free kicks, corners and penalties.
Deschamps: Well in that case, tell PSG you want out and the rest will be a formality. Before you know it, you'll be sitting in a London office talking to Chris Grierson. Voilà!
Well, it worked. A season of ups and downs with Palace earned Cabaye a spot in the 23 and after last night’s performance; he may well make future appearances if required during the rest of this tournament.
A lot was made of the Frenchman last season. Where’s his best position? Was he worth the money?
Wherever you stand on those debates, as a Palace fan you should have enjoyed watching a Palace player so integral to a side many think will make the latter stages of the tournament. In a team littered with players from Arsenal, Sevilla, Juventus and Atletico Madrid, it was a bloke who plies his trade in SE25 who stood out.
That’s of course testament to the player himself but also to a club that has come a long, long way in a very short time.