According to an exclusive on Sunday morning, Josh King is the top priority signing Rafa Benitez wants to make this summer.
The 26 year old scored 16 goals and got two assists last season, by far his best year in professional football.
First choice again for Bournemouth this season, the Norwegian international has not bothered the scorers quite as much this time, scoring six goals and adding another three assists in the Premier League.
In fact, in 20 PL appearance before February, Josh King only scored twice, before running into better form when adding another four goals in his next 10 games.
Rafa Benitez has made no secret that he wants a new first choice striker to up the quality but was thwarted by Mike Ashley last summer, only allowed to spend £5m on Stoke reserve Joselu as a squad player to replace the departed Daryl Murphy, although Joselu ended up being first choice up until the last few months.
Josh King has been previously linked with Newcastle a number of times but until last season, he had only managed 14 league goals in his career.
This time it is The Sun running the ‘exclusive’:
‘KING TOPS RAFA LIST Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez eyeing up Bournemouth striker Josh King.
NEWCASTLE boss Rafa Benitez wants a new No9 – and Bournemouth’s Josh King is top of his targets.
Benitez hopes to get the go ahead from Mike Ashley to invest in players and £20 million-rated King is a priority.’
Rafa has shown he is more than ready to make brave decisions and often not the most obvious ones.
In his short time at Newcastle he has already dropped the likes of Wijnaldum, Shelvey and his captain Jamaal Lascelles, whilst in January loan players Kenedy and Dubravka came in and were instantly thrown into action. They have been massive unexpected successes but Benitez would have copped for major criticism if things had gone wrong.
Josh King being a £20m top priority striker signing after only six goals and three assists this season would be a major surprise, especially when you see the criticism aimed at Dwight Gayle with five goals and three assists, having played around nine hours of PL football less than the Bournemouth striker.
As to exactly which striker would be the right one within Newcastle’s reach and budget is the…£20m (or whatever) question.
Islam Slimani showed some good moments as a sub against Arsenal but he turns 30 this summer, would probably cost £15m-£20m and is struggling to stay fit, so whatever forward is signed, you have to think it will come with risks/downsides – whether it is age, lack of a real proven record (such as Josh King), and/or injury concerns.