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Opinion

If it had to be one of them, I would sell Jamaal Lascelles

6 days ago
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Newcastle United are in the Champions League, away to Barcelona at the NOU Camp. The defence that night: Griffin, Hughes, O’brien, Bernard.

In the Europa League away at AZ. The defence that night: Solano, Taylor, Bramble, Huntingdon

In the Europa League away at Benfica. The defence that night: Simpson, Taylor, Mapou, Santon

It doesn’t make for great reading.

Certainly in the Premier League, this (2018/19) may be the best group of defenders we have had… which probably says much more about the ones we have had in the past, rather than those we have now. You could argue that one of the turning points in our season was the decision to go to five at the back, which although didn’t exactly work throughout December, certainly began to pay off come January as Schar, Lejeune and Lascelles formed the basis of a very strong back three.

I am sure that some will still argue that we are weak at full back. That is probably true. I have been a big fan of Deandre Yedlin but his form this season has been below par, while our only recognized full back on the other side of the pitch, Paul Dummett, has been out injured for most of the campaign. Plus, when he has featured, it has been at centre back. Staggeringly, it means we probably have 6 very competent Premier League centre backs at the club in Dummett, Lejeune, Lascelles, Clark, Fernandez and Schar.

One thing is for sure, something will have to give in that department. Of course Lejeune may be out injured for the rest of the calendar year, but that does not mean we won’t be paying his wages, so it doesn’t exactly free up space in the wage bill for a new centre back. Additionally, Rafa Bentiez will be wanting to strengthen other areas of the side, and if he does agree to stay, you can bet your bottom dollar he will still have to raise his own funds.

So the question: which one of our centre backs are we going to cash in on?

Ciaran Clark is probably the obvious candidate as the player who has featured least out of our centre backs this season. Although we will do well to even make back the £5 million that we paid for him. Financially, at the age he is at (will turn 30 in September), I don’t think it makes much sense to get rid of Clark. He has been a great signing for us, he has been versatile and to my knowledge never let us down once.

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The next centre half who has probably filled in the ‘back up’ category this season has been Federico Fernandez. He started off the season on fire and was mightily unlucky to lose his place when Florian Lejeune returned from injury. At the time he was probably our player of the season with his performances, and I bet that if Jamaal Lascelles wasn’t the leader off the pitch, then Fernandez probably would have kept his place on the pitch.

Obviously the possibility of us selling Florian Lejeune is a no go after he sustained another serious injury to his knee. I hope he comes back stronger than ever, although after two serious knee injuries you couldn’t blame him if he didn’t. The same goes for Paul Dummett, who has slotted in at centre back towards the end of the season but I would be surprised if Rafa didn’t see his long term future at the club in his most comfortable position at left back. I am still surprised by the amount of fans who think because Dummett has played around 10 half decent games at centre back that he is some sort of natural in that position. A strong option to have nonetheless.

That leaves us with two players.

Fabian Schar the first, who has been somewhat of a revelation. I had seen him a few times before, and then at last year’s World Cup where I though he did ok, but by no means was I overjoyed when we signed him for £3million. I even thought he had a slow start to life at NUFC but since around December time he has been nothing short of sensational. Rondon was for me by far our player of the season but Schar was certainly the only Newcastle player to come close to him based on his performances. I think any interested clubs looking to come in and take him away from us this summer would expect Newcastle to demand a high fee and that would likely deter them away.

If we are looking to ‘cash in’, then selling Jamaal Lascelles or Fabian Schar are the only real options in terms of making money. For me, and it may be controversial, but if there is one player I would think about selling this summer it is Jamaal Lascelles. Now this is nothing at all against Lascelles, in fact it is probably a compliment because I think lots of teams would come in and give us decent money for him. It is even likely that we could get far more than he is probably worth. Although, what would we be losing off the field? A captain and leader in the dressing room. Can you put a price on that? Also, let us not forget that he is a very good centre back as well.

So which one do we get rid of? I have no idea! There is an argument that we can’t afford to get rid of any of them and I am sure some will be saying that we may need one more with Lejeune out injured.

One thing I do know… is that it won’t be Rafa’s problem to sort out.

You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn

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