Newcastle target Florian Lejeune perfect for the Premier League - as Eibar sporting director admits defender exit likely

Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez.
Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez.

Sporting director Fran Garagarza says it will be “very difficult” for Eibar to hang on to Newcastle United defensive target Florian Lejeune.

And speaking exclusively to the Gazette, Basque Country based AS English journalist Paul Reidy believes the Frenchman is perfectly suited to life in the Premier League.

Lejeune is on Magpies boss Rafa Benitez’s summer transfer shortlist as he looks to add two new central defenders to his squad between now and the club’s return to the top flight.

But United could face competition from Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, who both have a long-standing interest in the 26-year-old centre-half.

Speaking to Radio Euskadi, Garagarza, widely regarded as the catalyst to Eibar’s rise to La Liga, says his club may be powerless to hang on to Lejeune, with Premier League clubs circling.

And should United be able to get their man, Reidy, who has covered Eibar’s exploits over recent years, believes Benitez will be signing a gem.

“Lejeune would be an acquisition for any club,” said Reidy.

“He is a typical No 5, an old English type who is fantastic in the air, has confidence, presence but is also very calming and commanding.

“For a player who is so good in the air and can read the game, he is also someone who can play, too. He is very comfortable with the ball at his feet.

“He has the make up and mentality to be a success in England.

“If he managed to add goals to his game you would say he is not far off the perfect defender.

“Should Newcastle sign him they would be getting a player who is perfectly suited to playing in the Premier League.

“Although, it is easy to say that when he is untested at that level, but his performances in Spain, especially against the top teams in the division suggest he could be a success in England.”

Reports in Spanish publication Marca have suggested that an £8.7million bid, triggering his release clause, has been lodged by United, and a ‘double your money deal’ put to the former Manchester City man.

While that may seem a little premature, Lejeune is seen as Benitez’s primary summer target, with back up option Ruben Semedo moving to Villarreal for £12million this week.

And the fact the former Liverpool, Chelsea, Valencia and Inter Milan boss is eyeing Lejeune, who only signed a four year deal at the Ipurua Municipal Stadium last summer, comes as absolutely no shock to Reidy.

“For a player of his reletively young age, Lejeune has a lot of experience - he is mature beyond his years,” said the reporter.

“In terms of his footballing experience he has played in a lot of countries at a lot of clubs.

“We had another player who left for Derby County in Raul Albentosa, who I would also have said was perfect for England.

“Things did not work out for him, as injuries prevented him making much of an impact at Derby.

“But now he is back at Deportivo La Coruna and playing well so it is always difficult to predict how things will work out abroad.

“Lejeune has been a bit of a journeyman footballer in his career so far, maybe now would be his time to find a club and settle down. It would be no surprise if that was at St James’s Park.”

Fellow Spanish journalist Letizia Gomez Baglietto echoed Reidy’s sentiments.

“I am convinced that Lejeune will eventually leave the Eibar, because his dream is to play in the Premier League,” said the writer of San Sebastian based Diario Vasco.

“Undoubtedly it will be a great loss for Eibar, but it must be remembered the club paid only 1.5 million euros and will receive 10 for Lejeune, so it is a big business for Eibar.”