Steve McClaren came to Newcastle with a ‘three-window’ approach to rebuilding the squad, and he intends to use January to take Newcastle to the next level.
Here are the five players Newcastle should sign, the five players they should replace, and one that’ll never happen, but would be great from a fan perspective:
Joel Matip in; Mike Williamson out
Newcastle have made Schalke defender Joel Matip their number one target and will expect to seal this deal early. The Cameroon international’s contract expires in the summer, which makes a fee of around £7m likely.
Mike Williamson’s contract will not be renewed in July; he may attract a small fee, or he may just be released. Either way, the competition for places between Matip, Mbemba and Coloccini make Newcastle much stronger.
Marcus Rojo in; Massadio Haidara out
Newcastle have three left-backs: Massadio Haidara, Paul Dummett and Kevin Mbabu. All of them are good back-ups; all of them have potential. The problem is Newcastle need a starting left-back NOW.
Haidara offers the least of the three, both defensively and with lack of versatility, and so should be replaced with Marcos Rojo of Manchester United. The Argentina defender offers a leap in ability, knows the English game and offers further cover at centre-back. Given the desire of Louis van Gaal to replace him, Newcastle should be able to bag him cheap – perhaps even a loan-to-buy arrangement, with a fee following at the end of the season. This deal is just common sense.
Jonjo Shelvey in; Cheick Tiote out.
Cheick Tiote is a shadow of his former self, but his reputation should ensure a fee anywhere up to £7m. He should be upgraded with Jonjo Shelvey who would cost £10-12m.
The England man was available for £8m earlier in the year; his distribution, attacking intent and long-range shooting is worth going a little higher for.
Experienced in the Premiership and approaching his prime, Shelvey would complement Colback and Wijnaldum well, making McClaren’s possession-based strategy more effective in attack and providing Newcastle with a consistent goal threat from 30 yards – something they have lacked for a while.
Yannick Bolasie in; Moussa Sissoko out
Moussa Sissoko has expressed a desire to leave Newcastle; Milan are waiting with £13m, but there will be an auction for his services, so expect that figure to rise – a few more performances like the Frenchman’s against Norwich and you could be talking £18m.
A strong, pacey, technical international midfielder, he will have several admirers, with his eligibility for European competitions an added bonus for the buyer.
This is where Newcastle should make a statement, sell Sissoko and bring in Yannick Bolasie from Crystal Palace. Alan Pardew has indicated in the media Crystal Palace would sell; a fee of around £18m should secure his signature. His signing would answer the inevitable questions of Newcastle’s ambition following the sale of Sissoko, a high-profile French international.
A cheaper alternative could be Nathan Redmond of Norwich – the Sunday Express (http://www.express.co.uk/sport/football/599091/Norwich-Liverpool-Southampton-Stoke-Nathan-Redmond-Transfer-News-Gossip) has reported that £10m could see the winger move north. Redmond would be a less exciting signing than Bolasie, but is perhaps a more realistic signing and, at 21, could serve Newcastle for many years. Either player would be a suitable replacement for the departing Sissoko.
Charlie Austin in; Papiss Cisse out
Papiss Cisse has been a solid hitman for Newcastle, but his general contribution is poor. The Senegal striker has long been linked with a Middle-East switch for around £5m; at 30, the time is right for the club to move him on for as much as they can get. Charlie Austin should conclude his long-running transfer saga with a January switch, probably for around £10m.
A strike force of Mitrovic, Perez, Austin, Siem de Jong and Adam Armstrong, who has 12 goals in 15 games on-loan at Coventry, would provide McClaren with the strongest, most exciting frontline Newcastle have seen in a decade.
While the potential transfers above all benefit Newcastle long-term, there is another, somewhat fantastical option available to them.
Sylvain Marveaux has never been more than a back-up for Newcastle. His contract expires in July, but the club would be best served to release him in January and replace him with Ronaldinho. Yes, that Ronaldinho.
The Brazil legend has just left Fluminense. At 35, his legs have long gone. But what an option to bring off the bench for twenty minutes. Newcastle have a young squad, filled with players who would have idolised Ronaldinho when growing up.
His experience, personality and skills would add far more to the squad for six months than Marveaux will. He’ll not change the world. He’ll not be the player he once was. But in a tight match, against a resolute defence, Ronaldinho could provide a moment of magic that makes the difference.
He may have struggled at Fluminense, but Andrea Pirlo struggled toward the end of his Milan career; you don’t hear Juventus and Italy fans saying he was too old.
It’d never happen, not in a million years. But imagine if it did … Marveaux replaced by Ronaldinho in a Newcastle shirt for six months.
A more realistic wild-card would require Mike Ashley to loosen the purse-strings a bit further; if he did, Newcastle could fund a double-swoop for Leicester duo Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy instead of Bolasie and Austin. Leicester are flying high in the league, but few believe that run will continue much longer and it would be hard to see the Foxes being in a position to turn down a big-money deal.
The attraction of playing in front of 50,000 fans will always be an attraction to players; a bigger incentive would be the increased wages at St. James’ Park.
It’s unlikely to happen but it isn’t that impossible to think that it could, and it would be a real statement of intent from the Newcastle board. It could even be the line-in-the-sand moment for the Ashley regime.
Newcastle should use the next month to get these transfers arranged. For an investment of around £20m, bolstered by the funds from the outgoing players, McClaren could field the following full-strength team:
Krul; Janmaat, Mbemba, Matip, Rojo; Colback, Shelvey, Wijnaldum; Bolasie (Mahrez), Perez, Austin (Vardy)
This is capable of switching between 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 without any change in personnel.
Supported by a substitutes bench of: Darlow, Coloccini, Dummett, Anita, de Jong, Thauvin and Mitrovic, with the likes of Taylor, Mbabu, Aarons and Armstrong in reserve,
McClaren would have a Europa League-quality of squad, filled with young yet experienced players who can only improve over the course of McClaren’s contract.
If Newcastle went for Redmond instead of Bolasie, it would only need investment of around £10m, and there would still be £80m of next year’s TV money remaining. With that war-chest, McClaren could sign four or five top-quality players in the summer, making the best players of today the back-up of tomorrow.
Mike Ashley and McClaren have both talked about winning a trophy; if they move fast, and they work smart, they could enter 2016 with a team who could win the FA Cup, and would enter next season with a squad with the potential to turn Newcastle into a team of real contenders at the top end of the league.
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