Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United character test that ‘immature’ Hugo Ekitike has 'failed' at PSG
Eddie Howe has consistently stressed the importance of signing ‘the right characters’ for Newcastle United.
Kieran Trippier and Bruno Guimaraes in particular are fine examples of high-profile signings who fit the bill both on and off the pitch as players and characters. It is no surprise that they have flourished since arriving on Tyneside.
One player who ‘got away’ from Newcastle over the summer was 20-year-old forward Hugo Ekitike. The young Frenchman emerged as a top attacking target for The Magpies in January but turned down the opportunity to join the club in the winter.
In the summer, Newcastle went back in for Ekitike and looked to have agreed a deal after having a £30million bid (including add-ons) accepted by Reims.
But once again, the player refused to make the move amid interest from Paris Saint-Germain.
The added fee demands from Ekitike’s agent, according to club sources on Tyneside, were ‘ridiculous’ as it became clear the transfer was being stalled.
Ekitike and his agent held out for PSG and they eventually got their wish, leaving Newcastle to explore their options elsewhere.
Although you couldn’t blame the youngster for preferring to join the French champions, the player and his representative’s conduct amid the interest from Newcastle was perhaps an early red flag that he wouldn’t pass Howe’s vital character test.
“It’s all about the person – and them committing to the club and team,” Howe said over the summer.
“It’s a feel you get from speaking to them and the agent. You’ll sense the commitment from the player very early. If you’re going to sign a player, they have to be committed to your club.”
Ekitike’s commitment to Newcastle was evidently non-existent despite the framework of the deal being set-up over the summer.
But his decision to join PSG has been far from a dream move so far.
Being behind superstars Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Neymar in the attacking pecking order at Parc des Princes was never going to be easy.
But two months after joining, Ekitike is still waiting to make his full debut and has been limited to just 66 minutes of football as a substitute in all competitions so far this season.
And question marks over the player’s attitude, professionalism and maturity have already emerged.
“I’m not convinced by Hugo Ekitike because he has shown mental weaknesses,” former PSG midfielder Eric Rabesandratana told France Bleu Paris.
“He’s young, but I find that, behaviour wise, he doesn’t correspond at all to what you expect from him as a young person, and especially as a player who should impose him at PSG over the years.
“We need players who are focused on football, and I’m not sure that moaning every two seconds, half-bothering to do the exercises, because it bores him and he’d rather play games, is enough.
"No, you have to show a perfect state of mind to be considered by the manager. For the moment, I find that he is not yet professional. He’s more of a kid than a professional. He must grow.”
It would appear that Newcastle have dodged a bullet with this one as they moved on and signed a more established young striker in Alexander Isak for a club record £60million fee instead.