Newcastle can save £120m Declan Rice transfer fee by considering these four top class alternatives
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There’s something special happening on Tyneside. You can hear it in the rumbling din of St. James’ Park as it drifts down over the rooftops and cobblestones on expectant match days; you can see it in the crashing waves of black and white flags as they roll and wriggle across the terraces, or the bullish stabs of colour from novelty Hawaiian shirts bearing the grinning likenesses of Brazilian idols. Newcastle United are soaring, and the Toon Army are on the march.
In some respects, this has felt like a looming inevitability ever since the club was bought out by their current Saudi owners in 2021. Money, in modern football, invariably brings with it success. But few could have hoped for the Magpies to have progressed quite as rapidly as they have. Last season they were still fending off the lingering spectre of a probable relegation scrap. This time around, they stand on the cusp of the Champions League. It’s a remarkable transformation, regardless of their heaving coffers, and one that intrigues as much as it intimidates.
Now, as the summer transfer window sidles out of the dank cave that it hibernates in, all eyes turn to the boardroom at St. James’. Of course, they are expected to double down on the recent signs of promise, but it’s worth nothing that for the first time in a long time, they have something worthwhile to double down on. This isn’t going to be a case of spending to tread water, it’s going to be investment with the aim of strapping a proverbial speedboat engine to Eddie Howe’s squad.
Naturally, that has altered the sort of market that they’re shopping in. Suddenly, Newcastle are being pitted against the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United, and Arsenal in the raging mythos of gossip column lore, and the calibre of name being linked to the North East has rocketed accordingly.
A prime example of this is the Magpies’ apparent interest in Declan Rice. As we have discussed before on 3 Added Minutes, the West Ham midfielder is set to be a man in demand this summer. Although the aforementioned trio of Premier League giants, as well as defending champions Manchester City, have all been touted as suitors, Newcastle remain in the conversation surrounding his future.
This does have the feeling of a pursuit that might just get away from them, however. For one thing, Arsenal have been firmly installed as the favourites to lure him away from the London Stadium, and for another the Hammers are said to be demanding around £120 million for the privilege.
The Magpies could almost certainly afford that in a pinch, but whether they would want to set a precedent for such exorbitant spending so early in their expedition to the summit of the continental game is another matter entirely. As such, alternatives may be sought, and we’ve taken a closer look at four candidates who would perhaps be more affordable.
Southampton are in a world of trouble. After a decade in the top flight, it really does feel as if the Saints’ relegation is now a matter of when, not if. In the increasingly inevitable event of them dropping down to the Championship, the likelihood is that one of the first players to leave in the ensuing fire sale will be their captain, Ward-Prowse.
The 28-year-old has, up to this point in his career, been a one-club man, but it’s hard to see how a talent of his obvious influence could stomach the second tier, or indeed how Southampton could pass up on a hearty offer for his services.
As recently as last June, it was reported that the Saints valued the set-piece specialist at around £75 million, but that figure is almost certain to come down significantly once their relegation is confirmed. You lose a fair amount of bargaining power when you’re haggling from the gutter, after all. Even if the board at St. Mary’s were, hypothetically speaking, to knock their demands down to £60 million - and even that feels lofty given their current situation - Ward-Prowse would still cost Newcastle half as much as Rice. It’s definitely an avenue worth considering.
McTominay has been a target for quite some time on Tyneside, and with Manchester United in the midst of their own transitional period, it feels as if his departure this summer is an increasing likelihood. Indeed, the Daily Star suggest that Old Trafford chiefs will not stand in the way of a potential exit in the coming months, as well as claiming that they value the Scotland international at around £50 million.
While still steep enough, that price tag would represent a far more palatable expense for the Magpies, and while few would argue that McTominay is a better all-round player than Rice, there is a certain merit to bringing in a midfielder in the prime of his career with such an abundance of European experience.
If cheapness is the name of the game then Tielemans might just trump everybody. The Belgian is out of contract with Leicester City this summer, and with little concrete indication that he is going to agree to an extension, the chances are that he will be available on a free transfer at the end of the season. Given that he cost the Foxes around £40 million in 2019, and that his profile has only risen since then, the 26-year-old would represent a genuine steal for Newcastle with plenty of resale value.
Other clubs in the Premier League are said to be interested, including both Arsenal and Liverpool, but the Magpies could stand just as good a chance as anybody given the scale of the project being undertaken on Tyneside and the likely lure of Champions League football next term.
As far as pedigree goes, it doesn’t much more regal than being the son of a World Cup winner, named after an Egyptian pharoah. Thuram (whose father is legendary defender Lilian, for those slow on the uptake) has been garnering plenty for attention for OGC Nice over in Ligue 1, and received his first senior France cap earlier this season. At just 22 years of age, he has a huge future ahead of him, and if reports are to be believed, Newcastle want the next chapter of his story to play out in the North East.
According to Football Insider, the Magpies are ‘well-placed’ to sign the midfielder this summer, with his current employers willing to listen to offers in the region of £60 million. There is, of course, competition, however. Both Liverpool and Real Madrid are understood to be interested as well.