Transfer Talk: Reims starlet Ekitike can be talk of the Toon
Hugo Ekitike has fired himself to the top of Newcastle's wish list — and the scoring sensation looks ready to take the Premier League by storm.
The striker shot to prominence after a prolific breakthrough campaign with Ligue 1 side Reims last season.
Eddie Howe's outfit reportedly had an offer for the in-demand youngster rebuffed in January and are now believed to be leading the way for his signature this summer.
We consider why the Magpies are so hot on Ekitike and whether he would be a good fit at St James' Park.
Fox in the box
Ekitike emerged as one of the deadliest finishers in France last season, bagging 10 goals in just 24 league appearances.
The forward had no issue acclimatising to senior men's football and was the joint-highest scoring teenager in Europe's top five leagues last term alongside Montpellier's Elye Wahi.
Now 20, the Reims native recorded a remarkable 0.31 goals per shot — better than any other player in the continent's top five divisions.
Additionally, 55.2% of his efforts were on target, which was the second-best record in France's top flight.
Reims reserves coach Franck Chalencon compared Ekitike's rise to the form of Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema at the same age.
He said: "He [Ekitike] is a very clever player which has seen him adapt and understand the expectations of professional football.
"His main quality? His instinct for goal. It's very rare that Hugo plays a game without creating a chance for himself at any occasion.
"At his age, the only ones who did that before were Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema.
"I'm not saying he will do the same career but statistically, the ones who can compare to him are those two."
Explosive runs off the ball and outstanding movement are two of Ekitike's greatest attributes.
He is able to stretch opposition rearguards by lurking on defenders' shoulders before making cunning runs in behind.
The 6ft 2in frontman takes long strides, enabling him to burst past opposition players — something which could be devastating against high defensive lines in the Premier League.
Ekitike also uses his movement to great effect by losing his marker as crosses are delivered.
Newcastle full-back Kieran Trippier completed 2.52 crosses per 90 minutes of league action in 2021-22 — the fifth-highest tally in the division — and could now have the ideal poacher getting on the end of them.
No lone wolf
Ekitike is still relatively raw as his minutes have been carefully managed by Reims boss Oscar Garcia.
The forward occasionally struggles in tight spaces, so is better running in behind rather than acting as a target man and there is a danger that he may be bullied if operating as a lone striker.
Playing alongside a partner who is able to occupy defenders would truly allow Ekitike to thrive.
It is no secret that Newcastle are in the market for a new attacker.
Chris Wood was signed in January to aid the Magpies' survival bid yet the New Zealander scored just once from open play for the Tynesiders last season.
Callum Wilson is currently top of the pecking order but his injury record is concerning, which means Howe will be unable to rely on him for an entire campaign.
The arrival of Ekitike would provide stiff competition, while simultaneously reducing the average age of the squad.
Reims' No22 is exactly the type of striker required at St James' Park.