Sven Botman reveals Newcastle United 'surprise' as he recalls transfer decision and AC Milan speculation

Sven Botman’s mind was made up according to the Italian press.

Botman, it was reported earlier this summer, was sold on a move to AC Milan.

Yet Botman went on to join Newcastle United in a £35million deal, and it’s clear that the imposing 6ft 4ins defender, relaxed while on tour with the club, is at ease with the decision – and relishing the new season.

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The 22-year-old had been a target for United in January, but he ended up staying with Lille for six more months.

“I read a lot in the newspaper that said ‘where is he going, Newcastle or Milan?’,” said Botman, who will play for Newcastle against Benfica at the Estadio da Luz tonight.

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“When I was in the season with Lille, I was just playing and thinking it will come later. In the meantime, the clubs discussed with Lille as well and after the season, I just wanted Newcastle. That was the choice.”

Left-footed Botman was being bombarded with messages on his social media accounts during negotiations.

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Newcastle United summer signing Sven Botman.

“You get messages,” said Botman. “You don’t see them all, but you know they’re talking about you, and whether you’re going or not. In the season, I just want to focus on Lille, but you always get messages (on social media) and friends are asking you ‘where are you going? Are you going? Is it true?’.”

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Eventually, a deal was done – and Botman agreed a move.

“I am just grateful,” said Botman. “I’ll try to do my best on the pitch. When this kind of club comes to you, you know Lille isn’t your end destination – and you can make another step. It gives you confidence and that’s nice.”

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Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe.

Asked if he had been close to joining in January, Botman added: “I was speaking with the club, but it was not possible.”

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Botman has long wanted to play in the Premier League – and, finally, he believes he’s ready for the challenge.

The Holland Under-21 international’s believes he’s joined a team which is capable of pushing up the league and challenging for trophies, and that ambition was a big attraction for Botman, a player with big ambitions himself.

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“It’s my first time playing in the Premier League – I think it’s the best league in the world – and it’s getting stronger and stronger,” said Botman.

Miles Starforth in Portugal with Newcastle United.
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“Every team is getting the best players. Newcastle isn’t just a club who is playing in the Premier League – and seeing what happens.

“They have a strict plan. They want to reach the top – and that’s something that really attracts me. I want to help Newcastle with the goals they have.”

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Botman played Champions League football with Lille last season following the club’s Ligue 1 title-winning campaign in 2020/21 – and United’s new owners want to see the club compete in the competition in the future.

Asked if he envisaged winning trophies – and playing Champions League football – with Newcastle, Botman said: “I think it isn’t possible to do it one season, but, in steps, we’ll get there.”

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Botman’s own journey has been a long one. He started out at Ajax and had a season on loan at Heerenveen before deciding he needed to leave the club, then managed by Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag, to further his career.

Sven Botman celebrates scoring for Lille last season.
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“I started playing there when I was seven or eight,” said Botman. “Went through all the youth teams, and at a certain point, I went to one team higher. I was seen as a talented player, but I was also not the big talent of the youth.

“I was a smooth journey into the Ajax squad. When I trained with the first team, it was really good, but I felt that I was not ready to be in the squad, so I went on loan to Heerenveen for one season, which was really good for me to have a different environment. (At) Ajax, everything is a good level.

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“The facilities, everything is top. It was good for me to also see the other side. That was really good for me.

“After, I went back to Ajax and signed a new contract, but that same summer I knew for myself that Ajax was not the best club for my profile. Lille would fit me better.

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“I had a good chat with Ten Hag at the time. I went to Lille, and had a great first season. We became champions.

“The second season was a little bit difficult. Lille had a lot of players who left the club, but we played Champions League, which was really nice and good for me as well. Good teams, Chelsea, Leipzig, Sevilla. Really good matches to develop.”

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Botman, having signed a five-year contract at St James’s Park, has time to develop at United.

Asked where he hoped to be in three or four years time, Botman said: “I’m here at Newcastle, so I hope in three or four years I’m playing in Europe with Newcastle – and we’re a club who people always believe can finish in the top six.

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“A lot needs to be done by myself and the club, but, with time, we’ll get there.”

Botman, certainly, has been impressed with training under head coach Eddie Howe. The club’s pre-season is “tougher” than those he has gone through at his previous clubs.

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“It’s totally different compared to Holland and France,” said Botman. “The intensity is much quicker – and the training is tougher. The pre-season is heavier.

“The coach is really good, he demands a lot from the players, so the level is going higher and higher, which I think is really good. If you want to reach these kind of goals, you need that level.

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“I was really surprised by certain things, but things are going well. I’m just excited to see us play in the Premier League.”

Newcastle United's Sven Botman playing against Benfica.