Everton have beat off the competition to land Lewis Gibson from Newcastle United.
Newcastle’s most highly rated teenager, it is a massive blow for Rafa Benitez to lose his best teenage prospect at the club.
Sunday morning has seen the Liverpool Echo break the news that Saturday saw Lewis Gibson agree personal terms and reach final agreement to move to Goodison Park.
The teenager turning down the likes of Manchester City, Tottenham and Southampton, with a transfer fee which could go higher than £6m if certain targets are met.
The Liverpool Echo say that a formal announcement of the 17 year’s signing could happen as early as today, once the medical and paperwork are completed.
Back in May (see below) it was revealed that Everton had made landing Lewis Gibson a top priority to join their ambitious planning to bring in top quality young players to go alongside the talent already at the club.
The Chronicle have confirmed today that with a move all but certain, the young defender hasn’t even trained with Newcastle since last season ended.
The lack of first team signings has been a major blow so far this summer for Newcastle fans and the sight of what supporters would see as one of their rivals, buying your top teenage prospect for the kind of figure you are paying out for senior players such as Atsu, Lejeune and Manquillo, is pretty hard to swallow.
The Mag – 3 May 2017:
The news from Merseyside is that Everton have made one of Newcastle’s rising young stars a top priority summer signing.
As well as major investment in established older players, the Toffees are also looking to further strengthen with younger players.
Their youth set-up has an outstanding record and Everton repeatedly give promising youngsters first team football at a young age.
Tom Davies was 17 when first playing Premier League football and still only 18, has made 21 PL appearances this season. Numerous others such as Mason Holegate and Ademola Lookman have been given first team football before reaching the age of 20.
The Liverpool Echo say that Ronald Koeman and his Director of Football Steve Walsh are looking at an ‘aggressive recruitment drive of players aged 16-18’ this summer and that Newcastle United’s Lewis Gibson ‘is a central part of his plans’.
Already getting rave reviews at Newcastle under first team level, Lewis Gibson turns 17 in July and has also been making waves in the England set-up.
He is currently away with the national side as England compete in the Under 17s European Championship Finals in Croatia, with group games against Holland, Ukraine and Norway starting tomorrow (Thursday).
Last month saw widespread reports that a number of clubs including Arsenal and the two Manchester clubs are also looking to bid for Lewis Gibson this summer.
March saw the young Newcastle defender score his first goal for England, the winner against Bosnia & Herzegovina in the final qualifying match for these European Championship Finals. He also played in the outstanding 8-1 win over Germany last year for the Young Lions.
The left-footed local lad is from Stanley and has followed older brother Liam into the Newcastle United set-up, though neither have appeared for the first team as yet.
Sibling Liam Gibson, who is also at Newcastle, turns 20 next month (April 2017) managed one Premier League appearance on the bench 13 months ago, when Steve McClaren had a number of defenders out through injury.
The youth set-up at Newcastle has been a massive disappointment down the years and it can’t all have been down to the quality of player at their disposal.
Fans have long expressed concern at the level of coaching below first team level and the inability to develop players, to improve them to a level where they can compete for the first team.
This hasn’t been helped by managers such as Alan Pardew, who failed to give real opportunities to younger players, tending only to give them games in the cup competitions which he and Mike Ashley were so keen to get out of at the earliest opportunity.
Rafa Benitez has been landed with an entire club to sort out from top to bottom and years and years of neglect were never going to be sorted overnight.
So you can sympathise with him going almost entirely for experienced players in this season’s vital quest for Premier League football at the earliest opportunity.
The fact remains though that young players at Newcastle will still see little chance of progressing, with once again only the cup matches having a few younger players given the odd game, in matches which Rafa clearly saw as an unnecessary distraction to the league campaign.
Lewis Gibson sees his older brother turn 20 in April without getting any kind of a chance and when you see 18 year olds at clubs like Everton getting a run of games, it emphasises how badly Newcastle have failed over the years.
The home game against Fulham saw 16 year old Ryan Sessegnon take Vurnon Anita and Newcastle to the cleaners with two excellent goals and a superb overall performance.
Rafa can’t let himself be distracted from the job in hand but if Newcastle are to convince the Lewis Gibsons that their future is at Newcastle United, then hopefully we will see youth given its chance in the coming seasons.
To lose such a promising player would be a body blow for Rafa Benitez but hopefully the likes of Lewis Gibson will be convinced that at last things are changing for the better at St James Park.