The burning questions Newcastle United simply must answer in the summer transfer window

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There are some major questions for the Magpies hierachy to answer as they prepare to take on European football’s elite next season.

Expect the unexpected could well be the mantra for Newcastle United supporters as they summer transfer window opens for business.

Although the Magpies needs and wants have been widely reported, with a centre-back, left-back, two centre midfielders and at least one forward on the agenda, it seems there could be some uncertainty about both where their priority targets lie and just how much Eddie Howe will be able to spend over the coming months.

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One consistent message from within St James’ Park is that the Magpies are fully aware of not falling foul of Financial Fair Play regulations, despite the obvious financial benefits of their qualification for the Champions League. But just as they proved with the signings of England defender Kieran Trippier and Brazil star Bruno Guimaraes during a relegation battle, the United hierachy are ready to produce a few shocks in the transfer market.

The reports of a move for Internazionale and Italy midfielder Nicolo Barella caught many off-guard, but it does suggest the Magpies are ready to show their ambitions as they prepare to take on European football’s elite over the coming season. But there are some major questions to be answered with the summer trading set to get underway and we’ve assessed six of the most pressing ones.

Can they add the right characters to maintain a strong togetherness?

Newcastle United goalkeeper Nick Pope, far left, celebrates after the Leicester City game.Newcastle United goalkeeper Nick Pope, far left, celebrates after the Leicester City game.
Newcastle United goalkeeper Nick Pope, far left, celebrates after the Leicester City game. | Getty

One of the key attributes of the Magpies squad is the spirit of togetherness and a bond that was forged during the battle against relegation during the second half of the 2021/22 season and further strengthened during the successful push for a top four place in the previous campaign.

There is no doubt there are ambitious plans being made and carried out during the summer transfer window and there was a clear indication of that when news broke revealing United were in talks with Internazionale over a move for Italy midfielde Barella. There have been a whole host of eye-catching names linked with moves to St James’ Park and they are to be taken with a pinch of salt. Newcastle are working their way through a list of targets, with Eddie Howe keen to place the emphasis on bringing the right characters into his dressing room to help his side through what will be a hectic season.

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Background checks will have been made on potential targets in recent months and the Magpies know exactly what they want from this window - but ensuring the togetherness that underpinned everything they did on their way into the Champions League will be at the top of their agenda as they look to continue their upward trajectory.

What lies ahead of Allan Saint-Maximin?

Newcastle United winger Allan Saint-Maximin.  (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)Newcastle United winger Allan Saint-Maximin.  (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)
Newcastle United winger Allan Saint-Maximin. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images) | Getty Images

The future of Allan Saint-Maximin was subject of intense speculation long before he released an emotional statement that gave an insight into his current mindset as he looks to move on from a difficult season.

Despite United’s unquestionable progress, the mercurial winger scored just one goal - albeit an outstanding volley to secure a point at Wolverhampton Wanderers - and provided five assists in 31 appearances in all competitions as a niggly hamstring injury limited his impact throughout the campaign.

Saint-Maximin’s statement spoke of ‘entering a turning point in his career’ and reflecting on a ‘difficult year emotionally’. The former OGC Nice winger is without question a deep character and his statement opens up two possibilities. Being positive, it could be that Saint-Maximin is determined to put in injury-hit season behind him and is ready to regain his place as one of United’s leading lights. On the other side of the coin, he could be opening up on the possibility of a move away from Tyneside. An intriguing few months lie ahead for a man once seen as the Magpies’ talisman.

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Is another striker required?

Newcastle may look to sign a third striker to provide extra competition. (Getty Images)Newcastle may look to sign a third striker to provide extra competition. (Getty Images)
Newcastle may look to sign a third striker to provide extra competition. (Getty Images) | Getty Images

As it stands, United head into the summer with Alexander Isak and Callum Wilson as their only senior strikers. That said, the duo both contributed significantly to the success of last season, scoring a combined 28 goals and providing a further eight assists for their team-mates, meaning they produced a contribution in just under half of all the goals scored by Eddie Howe’s side last season.

On numerous occasions during the second half of the season, Wilson was handed the leading role in the Magpies frontline with Isak playing from the left-hand side. There was a feeling it did not quite click or feel natural, despite both players impressing as individuals and their side impressing during the run-in. Wilson will enter the final year of his current deal this summer and has confirmed he will be discussing an extension over the coming months.

However, it seems he will have further competition for a place in Howe’s starting lineup this summer as the Magpies boss targets another forward and one that is capable as playing as a lead striker and out wide in the same manner as Isak.

Will there be further additions to the academy setup as new challenges lie ahead?

Newcastle United sporting director Dan AshworthNewcastle United sporting director Dan Ashworth
Newcastle United sporting director Dan Ashworth | Getty Images

Quite simply, yes, and they are neccassary. One of the additional bonuses on United’s qualification for the Champions League is that they will also enter the UEFA Youth League for the first time in their history as the Magpies youngsters face the great and the good across the continent.

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That will require further additions to boost the youth ranks as the Under-21s contend with playing in Premier League 2, the Premier League Cup, Northumberland Senior Cup and the Papa John’s Trophy. The Under-18s will face a similarly hectic programme and one now including potential meetings with the best youngsters from around Europe in the aforementioned UEFA Youth League.

Dan Ashworth and the newly boosted Magpies recruitment team are working hard to identify the best young talent at home and abroad and it is believed a separate budget has been put in place to boost the academy ranks ahead of a historic season.

What difficult decisions lie in wait?

Newcastle United captain Jamaal Lascelles leads the team out at Hillsborough last season.Newcastle United captain Jamaal Lascelles leads the team out at Hillsborough last season.
Newcastle United captain Jamaal Lascelles leads the team out at Hillsborough last season. | Getty

United find themselves in a strange situation as they continue their development under the ownership of the PIF-led consortium.

There is no doubt they are firmly ahead of schedule, with last summer’s pre-season aims of a top ten finish far surpassed by qualifying for the Champions League. Far from shying away from the challenge of advancing plans, the Magpies hierachy will press on and try to build on the momentum gained during a remarkable 18 months.

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In some ways, they have a two-tiered squad, with stars such as Bruno Guimaraes, Kieran Trippier and Alexander Isak still sharing a dressing room with Jamaal Lascelles, Matt Ritchie and Paul Dummett, three players that helped the club to the Championship title under Rafa Benitez in 2017.

Although the eyes are firmly focused on the an exciting future, there should be some sadness should a number of long-standing players depart this summer. Lascelles, in particular, played a key role as a leader in the dressing room during some difficult times and was thrust into a role as captain, despite his tender years. Should he depart, he would surely go with the good wishes and team-mates, coaches and supporters alike. This week brought confirmation Ritchie has been handed a one-year extension to his current deal and Dummett has been offered a chance to follow a similar route.

However, the likes of Ciaran Clark and Matty Longstaff will leave the club when their contracts end later this month and they could be followed by the likes of Karl Darlow, Isaac Hayden and Javier Manquillo.

How will the goalkeeping situation look once the transfer window is closed?

Newcastle United goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.Newcastle United goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.
Newcastle United goalkeeper Martin Dubravka. | Getty

Nick Pope is unquestionably Eddie Howe’s first-choice goalkeeper after he enjoyed a remarkable first season at St James’ Park.

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The England stopper was a key part of the Magpies side throughout the season and he produced a whole host of outstanding performances to help his side post one of the best defensive records in the Premier League and lay the foundations of their push into the Champions League.

However, the situation behind Pope is somewhat clouded at this point in time. Martin Dubravka remains at the club for the time being and showed what he is capable of producing in the season-ending draw at Chelsea last month. That said, at 34-year-old, the Slovakia international may well seek a move away from Tyneside in search of regular first-team football as his career enters its final years.

The possibility of a departure seems to have been increased when United put out their retained list on Wednesday and revealed Mark Gillespie has penned a new one-year deal and fellow stopper Loris Karius has been offered an extension to his current contract - although the latter is believed to be drawing interest from Serie A.

Youngster Dan Langley has been released and Karl Darlow is likely to leave Newcastle this summer after a productive loan spell with Championship club Hull City, with the Tigers keen to convert that move into a permanent deal. Middlesbrough are also believed to be keen on the former Nottingham Forest star.

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