The subtle Newcastle United transfer hint amid James Maddison speculation
Eddie Howe spoke to Newcastle United’s hierarchy last week about the window while in Saudi Arabia for a week-long training camp.
Howe, keen to manage expectations on Tyneside after a £200million spend over the past two windows, spoke about the club’s “flexibility” after a 5-0 win over Al Hilal in Riyadh a week ago.
“It was just conversations at this stage,” said Howe. "I think the big thing is that there’s a lot that can change between now and January, so we’ve talked and had discussions about what it may look like, but there’s such a long time before that window opens, we’re still very flexible in terms of what we’re going to do.”
Newcastle went after some big deals in the summer, and the club followed the captures of Sven Botman, Matt Targett and Nick Pope with the £60million club-record capture of striker Alexander Isak
Sporting director Dan Ashworth, tellingly, described this level of spending as “unsustainable” after the window closed.
"What is clear is that this club has invested,” said Ashworth. “I wasn’t here in January, but in 2022 it was around £200million – and that’s not sustainable.
The early indications are that it could be a case of one in, one out next month. The window could be more about strengthening the squad, not the starting XI.
Howe’s changing needs
Newcastle had looked at wingers in the summer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a wide player will be a top priority next month.
The form of Miguel Almiron on the right, seen as a something of a “problem position” at the start of the season, is something Howe can’t ignore. Almiron is the club’s leading scorer with eight goals.
And Howe dropped a subtle hint last week when he was asked if his “needs or wants” in the market had changed since the summer.
"You’re always making new impressions and opinions on players because of what you are seeing in matches and training. Probably the squad, in my eyes, looks different to what it did in the summer because of how well players have done, and, from my perspective, I can’t ignore that.
“We look like, on paper, we have a very strong squad when everyone’s fit. Everyone’s not fit currently, and that has a bearing on what you look to do in January.”
Old targets, new targets
Newcastle bid for James Maddison in the summer, but another move for the Leicester City midfielder is unlikely in the window given the cost of a deal.
However, Leicester head coach Brendan Rodgers is braced for more interest in the 26-year-old.
“I would think (there would be interest),” said Rodgers. “It's only natural you want your absolute best players to be here, and we keep saying that, but we keep losing them. He's never a player you would want to lose.”
Newcastle must work within what chief executive Darren Eales described as the “guardrails” of financial fair play. The club must quickly increase its commercial revenues if its to compete for the likes of Maddison in the future.
United also made an offer for Everton winger Anthony Gordon, also a target for Chelsea, in the summer window. The 21-year-old’s also expected to be well out of the club’s price range.
The latest from Howe
“I have had half an eye on January and the squad, and how it looks,” said United’s head coach. “We need to be adaptable and prepared for what is always a difficult window.
"But if there’s something we can do to improve the team, I, naturally as the manager, would like to look at that. But until I have those conversations with the club, it’s impossible to give you answers on that.”
One clue to Howe’s thinking is the club’s move for West Ham United right-back Harrison Ashby late in the summer window.
Newcastle have also been linked with Leeds United’s Cody Drameh, and the club, certainly, could attempt to sign cover for Kieran Trippier in the window.
The move for Harrison put a question mark above the future of Javier Manquillo, who has barely featured this season.
There has also been speculation over the future of Ryan Fraser, but Howe still believes that the 28-year-old winger – who also played for Howe at Bournemouth – has a lot to offer the club.
A done deal
United have already signed one player ahead of the window. The club agreed a move for Garang Kuol earlier this season, and the 18-year-old will officially become a Newcastle player next month.
However, the forward will most likely be loaned out to a European club for experience so he can gain the Governing Body Endorsement points he needs for a work permit.
Alternatively, the club could seek an exemption for Kuol.
United have also had preliminary discussions with goalkeeper Loris Karius over an extension to his deal, which expires in January.
Speaking last week, Howe said: “I’d like him to stay, but obviously the two parties have got to agree, so fingers crossed. He’s a goalkeeper with a lot of experience. He’s trained well. He’s a very good character.”
Karius is open to staying longer. Speaking after making his debut against Al Hilal, the 29-year-old said: “I spoke with them a little bit. We didn’t go into too much detail yet, because we had the break after.
“It’s not much time left. Yeah, like I said, it’s been a great few months. Of course, I don’t play yet, but how I’ve been training, how I was welcomed by the whole group makes me believe I can achieve more things here.
“That’s my aim, to be here for a long project instead of a short one.”