Sunday’s season opener against Southampton was an entertaining affair, we looked very good going forward, causing trouble every time we broke free on the counter attack, but it started to become clear that we’re still very vulnerable at the back. According to the statistics Southampton targeted our left flank.
They concentrated most of their attacks down that side, targeting Massadio Haidara. I like Haidara, he’s good going forward, he’s strong, he’s quick, he’s exciting to watch – but he cannot defend. Granted, he’s still a young man, and he’s improving but there is a lot of work to do.
On Monday morning it transpired that PSV left-back Jetro Willems had been at St James’ Park watching the game. Most claim he was simply supporting his buddy Georginio Wijnaldum on his NUFC debut, whom he won the Eredivisie title with last year for PSV, but add to that his cryptic Instagram post about ‘Flying to the future’ whilst on his way to Newcastle, and him following NUFC on Twitter later that day, and the rumour mill starts to turn with Dutch reports claiming Willems was trying to force a move to the Magpies.
21-year old Willems, is rated as one of the most highly-rated players in European football, and his signature would be quite the coup for United.
Today however, Newcastle United are now being linked with Lorient’s Portugese left-back Raphael Guerreiro. Again, another highly-rated young full back.
With this seemingly strong ambition to sign a left-back, let’s take a look at some possible targets.
As mentioned above, one of the most highly-rated youngsters in Europe. Willems is a full Dutch international, representing his country 15 times, and became the youngest ever player to feature in the European Championships at Euro 2012, at the tender age of 18. Total Dutch Football rank Willems at No.1 in their ‘Top 50 Dutch Prospects’ but also label his defensive positioning and ability in the air as weaknesses. He linked up brilliantly with Memphis Depay last year as PSV won the Eredivisie, and the thought of him bombing down the left-blank with Rolando Aarons is tantalising.
Guerreiro is a 21-year old Portugese left-back plying his trade for French side Lorient. He signed for Lorient in 2013 where he made his Ligue 1 debut, and as the cliche goes ‘he hasn’t looked back’. He’s since gone onto make a couple of appearances for the Portugese national side and even scored a goal. Lorient’s chairman has been quoted as saying that £8.5m would be enough to lure the player away from the French side, but if the Magpies want the Portugese star they’ll need to fight off interest from Atletico Madrid.
Perhaps an ambitious shout, but considering we were linked with Monaco’s Aymen Abdennour, perhaps not. Kurzawa is a 22-year old French attacking left-back that currently plays for Monaco. He recently made his debut for the French national side in November 2014.
Like the above, Kurzawa is mainly know for his attacking exploits having scored a few goals for Monaco last season, and so far this season in Champions League qualification. In recent days, Paris Saint-Germain have reportedly been sniffing around the young Frenchman so any approach for him would probably take some work.
Algerian star Ghoulam currently plays for Italian side Napoli. He’s mainly been linked with Arsenal in recent months, but a few weeks ago was subject of reported interest from Newcastle United. Ghoulam made 21 appearances in Serie A last season, but 10 of those came from the bench.
He’s arguably the most rounded of the full-backs mentioned but has the least upside of all of them, already aged 24. The Algerian is available from Napoli and would only likely provide cover at Arsenal, so the promise of first-team football could be alluring to the 24-year old.
Last but not least, we have Frenchman Benjamin Mendy. The 21-year old currently plays for Olympique Marseille and made 33 appearances in Ligue 1 for the former European Champions. He made 4 assists in the French league last season. Newcastle are perennially linked with Marseille players, currently Florian Thauvin, so a move for another Marseille player wouldn’t be a huge surprise. Mendy is yet to make an appearance for the senior French national side and is without a doubt the ‘rawest’ of the these five.
It seems at this moment that if we do move for a left-back the most likely would be Willems or Guerreiro, with the Dutchman seemingly keen on a move to the North East. Newcastle have denied that a move for Willems is in the pipeline but if a talent like the PSV man becomes available, it would take a fool to turn him away.
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