Rafa Benitez ramps up Newcastle’s summer transfer activity – with Tammy Abraham deal edging closer

Rafa Benitez
Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez’s summer rebuild at St James’s Park appears to be gathering pace with a deal for Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham edging closer.

Abraham has been made available on loan by the Blues after an impressive season at Bristol City, where he finished as the Championship’s second top-scorer.

That has alerted the likes of Sunderland and Brighton, but it appears as if Newcastle’s offer to pay the striker’s wage in full has won them the race, as well as manager Benitez’s close relationship with Blues technical director Michael Emenalo

The temporary deal for Abraham, who netted 26 times last season, is not the Magpies’ only reported piece of business, though, with a bid of around £10.4million reportedly lodged for Metz and Senegal winger Ismaila Sarr.

According to France Football and L’Equipe, a bid has been lodged for 19-year-old Sarr.

But Metz, where the teenage Ligue 1 wonderkid plies his trade, are rumoured to be wanting closer to £13million this summer.

It is known that Benitez is seriously looking to strengthen the wide areas of his United XI next season.

The manager already has star man Matt Ritchie at his disposal, as well as securing a deal for Christian Atsu from Chelsea. Rolando Aarons, should he prove his fitness, could also provide first-team competition.

Beyond that options are light with Yoan Gouffran and Sammy Ameobi both set to depart at the end of their contracts.

Andros Townsend, among many others, has been heavily linked with a return to the club in recent weeks, with Benitez a keen admirer of the England winger’s talents.

United failed in an attempt to broker a January deal for Townsend, with Crystal Palace hanging on to the wideman for their top flight relegation battle.

And should that deal prove too difficult to do this summer, with Palace still searching for a new manager and no decision made on Townsend until the new man settles into the Selhurst Park job, Sarr could become a viable, young and relatively cheap option.

Last month, Metz coach Philippe Hinschberger said of Sarr: “He runs at opponents, he’s quick and he’s someone you don’t like to defend against.”

The player, who is also wanted by Lille, played 31 times for Metz last season, scoring five times.

Elsewhere, Portuguese newspapers A Bola yesterday reported that United had a bid for Ruben Semedo accepted by Sporting Lisbon.

A fee of around £12.1million was said to have been accepted, but that has been refuted by the player’s agent, Catio Balde.

“Reuben is at the stage of the national team and it’s all a lie,” he said of the reports of an agreement.

“There is nothing.”

Reports suggested the Magpies had sent representatives over to Portugal to seal the deal to see off late interest from Premier League rivals Southampton.

The 23-year-old, who has also been scouted by Everton this campaign, is rumoured to have a £40million release clause in his contract.

Sporting are willing to accept less for their central defender, but are hoping to recoup more than the sum bid by United, which has been reported as having £2.6million in add ons outside the initial fee.

Benitez is chasing at least one central defender this summer.

Ryan Shawcross was heavily linked earlier in the summer, so too was recently-relegated Harry Maguire, of Hull City.

But in recent weeks attentions seem to have turned to Manchester City reject Eliaquim Mangala.

The France international has had a hit and miss three years at the Etihad since his £42m move from Porto.

He spent last season on loan at Valencia, and is thought to be available for around £16m.

Meanwhile, Manchester City could put a spanner in the works for United’s chase of keeper Pepe Reina.

Reina is almost certain to leave Napoli this summer, one year into his two year deal in Italy.

A public falling out with the club’s hierarchy as well as Napoli lining up a deal with Arsenal for Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny, who spent last season on loan at Roma, has put Newcastle on red alert, with a £4million deal readied for one of Rafa Benitez’s most trusted lieutenants.

But United may not have it all their own way in persuading Reina to swap the Stadio San Paolo for St James’s Park - a report in Italian publication Corriere dello Sport claims Pep Guardiola could make a summer move for the soon-to-be 35-year-old.

City have just brokered a record-breaking deal for Benfica goalkeeper Ederson Moraes, totalling an eye-watering £35million.

But with Joe Hart set to depart and massive question marks over Claudio Bravo, who had a shaky season under Guardiola, the Spaniard could be tempted to add another keeper to his ranks.