It’s easy to forget that football is, in theory, something to be enjoyed.
The immense popularity of the world’s favourite sport has attracted several cancers: rampant commercialisation, morally corrupt ownership models, hateful tribalism, Sepp Blatter.
Anyone would be forgiven for getting lost in the quagmire football has become but some players are capable of reminding us why we invested so much of our lives into the game in the first place.
Allan Saint-Maximin is one such player.
The 24-year-old is not a ruthless, efficient, machine-like champion in the mould of Cristiano Ronaldo or Kevin De Bruyne but he is probably the most fun player in the Premier League – Adama Traore may have something to say about that.
Cynical fans will be quick to scoff at such a label: you don’t get a trophy for being fun, mate.
And of course that’s true but anyone possessing such an attitude has lost sight of football’s purpose – it’s supposed to be a source of entertainment, remember?
Anyone who truly loves the mechanics of the game, the energy, the artistry, enjoys watching Saint-Maximin at his best.
The Frenchman is one of the best dribblers in the league and a frighteningly potent counter-attacker who makes ghosts out of players unfortunate enough to stumble into his path.
His dazzling, wide-eyed display against Leeds last Friday was a prime example of his talent as he combined entertainment with effectiveness to earn his side a point almost single-handed.
There is generally feeling among neutrals, one that was parroted in the media following his one-man show against Marcelo Bielsa’s side, that Saint-Maximin is somehow wasted at Newcastle.
While it’s true that he seems capable of playing for teams with greater ambitions than the Magpies, it could be argued that he is perfectly placed where he is currently.
Newcastle fans must be among the most dissatisfied in Europe.
Many feel that the club has the potential to be much bigger than it is and, when you consider the stadium, the fan base, the city, it’s easy to empathise.
Mike Ashley’s reign as owner has come to be defined by a string of the decisions that seemed to ignore the best interests of the supporters who make up the lifeblood of Newcastle United.
The aborted takeover of 2020 and the relatively uninspiring tactics employed by Steve Bruce have added new layers to the malaise at St James’ Park.
With little evidence to suggest Newcastle will experience a sustained upturn anytime soon, don’t their fans deserve some consolation?
At least in Saint-Maximin they have a source of pure joy, a brief agent of escapism who anchors fans to their childhood love of the club and football in general.
That’s not to say there are not aspects to his game he could improve – he is just like any other player in that regard – but as a genuine entertainer he should be treasured.
And it’s not just his playing style that titillates either, his likeable social media persona wages war against the joyless cult followers active on Football Twitter, while his headband raises a middle finger to the wannabe hooligans who see the sport as a battleground of old-fashioned masculinity.
In a sport seemingly determined to suffocate itself in seriousness, Saint-Maximin provides gasps of excitement and shameless jubilation.
He’s the antidote most Newcastle fans need right now.
Dream Team gaffers would be wise to consider Saint-Maximin’s effectiveness as well as his panache.
At the time of writing, only five forwards have more points than Newcastle’s No10 (32) and yet he appears in just 2% of teams.
At £3.5m he’s affordable and while Bruce’s side don’t have European commitments to fulfil, they play Watford, Wolves, Spurs and Crystal Palace in their next four league games – a quartet of opponents who may be vulnerable to Saint-Maximin’s brand of football.