Transfer Talk: Four World Cup stars the Magpies could swoop for in January
It is hard to see how Eddie Howe’s short reign at Newcastle could have gone any better and his squad is only likely to get stronger in the coming months.
The Premier League season paused for the World Cup with the Magpies in third place and on an 11-match unbeaten run.
When the club were taken over by a group led by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, it was assumed they would immediately target big-name players.
Instead, Howe’s Newcastle revolution has been built upon the improvement of those who were already at the club when he joined, alongside some surprisingly pragmatic signings.
With Newcastle now in contention for Champions League qualification, it will be fascinating to see the type of player that they go for next and we have taken a look at some possible January targets.
Matt Targett was brought in on loan from Aston Villa last January and signed on a permanent deal over the summer.
The 27-year old has lost his place to Dan Burn — another signing from the previous January window, who primarily operates as a central defender.
Burn had played on the left at Brighton and his presence allows for him to effectively become a third central defender at times, allowing for Kieran Trippier to get further forward on the right.
Yet while Burn has performed admirably in the role, it is hard to see the 6ft 6in defender in the position long-term, with Howe likely to want someone that can match Trippier’s attacking prowess.
One left-back that has been linked with a move to the club is Borna Sosa, who is currently impressing at the World Cup with Croatia.
Sosa has five assists for Stuttgart in the Bundesliga this season from 12 appearances and at 24 years old, could be a solution for years to come.
Over the last two transfer windows, Newcastle have signed a number of English players.
One Englishman that they are said to have bid unsuccessfully for last summer was Leicester's attacking midfielder James Maddison.
The 26-year-old’s form for the Foxes this season will surely have only intensified the desire to bring him north, with Maddison scoring seven goals and assisting a further four in the Premier League.
Selected in England’s World Cup squad off the back of those numbers, Maddison has been playing on the right of Leicester's attack.
While his versatility will doubtless appeal to Howe, the performances of Newcastle’s Miguel Almiron suggests that he would be employed elsewhere.
Howe plays with a 4-3-3 formation and aside from Bruno Guimaraes the personnel he employs in midfield are entirely inherited. Maddison would represent a major upgrade on his options.
Newcastle’s last match before the break was a 1-0 win against Chelsea that saw Guimaraes alongside Joe Willock and Sean Longstaff in midfield.
If Maddison looks like a natural upgrade on Willock, a more combative player could be sought to replace Longstaff.
Perhaps the solution may be another talent that the Tynesiders were linked with in the last transfer window.
Newcastle were rumoured to have had a £35million bid for Ajax midfielder Edson Alvarez turned down by the Dutch giants, with Chelsea also having made an unsuccessful move.
Alvarez represented eliminated Mexico at the World Cup and at 25 years old, already has 61 caps for his country.
A classy defensive midfielder who is also able to play at centre-back, Alvarez would allow Guimaraes to be employed in a box-to-box role, rather than the deep-lying position he has been used in this season.
The most expensive signing made during the Howe era is the arrival of Swedish forward Alexander Isak for a club-record fee of around £60m.
It looked a smart move, with the 23-year-old providing competition and cover for the injury-prone striker Callum Wilson, while also being able to play wide.
Isak started brightly with two goals in three games, before succumbing to injury himself. Though the Swede will be available after the World Cup, it would be no surprise if Howe looks to boost his forward options.
Another Ajax player that has been linked is Ghana’s World Cup star Mohammed Kudus, who has scored twice in the tournament and has 10 goals in 21 games this season for his club.
The 22-year-old has played as both a midfielder and a winger for his country and has also been employed as a striker by Ajax.