The dream £70m summer signing who can take Newcastle United to the next level

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A busy summer is anticipated at Newcastle United with a number of incomings and outgoings.

There are few certainties with Newcastle United ahead of the summer transfer window and there is something of an air of the unknown about what could come to pass at St. James’ Park.

What is certain is Eddie Howe and the Magpies hierarchy are facing some major calls over the future of several current members of their squad. There are long-serving players such as Paul Dummett and Matt Ritchie heading into the final month of their contracts, while the likes of Sean Longstaff and Martin Dubravka will make their way into the last year of their deals during the summer months. A number of players are also said to be attracting interest from elsewhere, with clubs in Saudi Arabia considering moves for Miguel Almiron and Callum Wilson.

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Of course, the looming spectre of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations and the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules will remain present and will no doubt have a sizeable impact on how Newcastle conduct themselves during the summer trading period. There has been speculation of a big sale taking place with several clubs said to be keen on Brazilian midfielder Bruno Guimaraes and in-form striker Alexander Isak - although only sizeable offers would even be considered and there is said to be a confidence at St. James’ Park that both players will remain on Tyneside.

Recruitment is likely to focus on two areas as United seek competition for Isak and Wilson (if the latter stays) and at the heart of their defence. There is growing speculation over possible free transfer moves for Fulham defender Tosin Adarabiayo and Bournemouth’s Lloyd Kelly, a player well-known to Howe from their time together at the Vitality Stadium. Although there is, in reality, no such thing as a free transfer, both would be prudent additions to the Magpies squad and will give Howe competition and cover as Sven Botman and club captain Jamaal Lascelles make their way back from the anterior cruciate ligament injuries they suffered earlier this season.

But with Lascelles in the final year of his current deal and fellow centre-back Fabian Schar currently out of contract at the end of next season, there will be a desire to bring in a long-term partner for the impressive Botman and that could mean United going above and beyond. Several options have been considered with Sporting CP duo Goncalo Inacio and Ousmane Diomande are both believed to have been under the gaze of United recruitment staff in recent months.

However, there is another option in Portugal that would provide Newcastle with a player that can claim to be one of European football’s most exciting young defenders after forging a highly promising reputation for himself at Sporting’s cross-city rivals Benfica. At the age of just 20, Antonio Silva has already become a Primeira Liga champion, earned a place in the league’s team of the year, made over 20 appearances in the Champions League and Europa League, secured a place in Portugal’s World Cup Finals squad and earned nine senior caps in the last two years.

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Such rapid progress has reportedly attracted interest from some of European football’s biggest clubs after the likes of Liverpool, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City were all said to have the young defender on their radar - and the praise of several pundits, former rivals and team-mates shows that their interest may be well placed.

Former Sporting defender Daniel Carrico told SIC Noticas last year: “He’s a young man who doesn’t look like a young man. He plays with the maturity of a senior and a centre-back with several years of experience. He has a very strong personality. He demonstrates this on the pitch. He’s a leader. Together with Otamendi, he has made a very strong duo.”

Former Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen also delivered a positive verdict on his former Benfica team-mate, telling CNN Portugal: “Otamendi is making a wonderful time. At his age, he remains very physically and mentally important, and a key player in the team. He is a true leader, as demonstrated at the World Cup. At the beginning of the season, he started playing with Morato, who is a very good player but then because of the injuries, they had to put the kid [into the team], Antonio Silva but the boy will be a legend. If he keeps doing what he’s been doing, he has everything to be one of the best defenders in the world in a year or two.”

The stats back up Silva’s impact as he has produced more tackles and blocks per 90 minutes this season than the likes of William Saliba, Virgil van Dijk and Jarrad Branthwaite - although falls short of the Premier League trio when it comes to interceptions, showing his anticipation could be an area for improvement within his game. The same can be said of ball carries, where Saliba and Van Dijk have a higher average than Silva’s 42.4 per game. But it would be foolish to not acknowledge at 20-years-old, the Portugal star has time on his side and it could be argued he is ahead of both Premier League powerhouses when they were at the same age.

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Newcastle’s high-value additions have tended to be between the ages of 20 and 24, something that coincidentally hints at Mike Ashley’s desire for sell-on value, but is also implemented with a view to grow with the Magpies as they look to become regular challengers at the top end of the Premier League and in European competition. Silva’s room for growth would seem to sit in line with the improvement Howe has coaxed out of the likes of Botman, Guimaraes, Isak and Anthony Gordon following their big money moves to St. James’ Park - and although the Benfica defender’s cost would likely exceed the fees handed over for that quartet, it could prove to be a shrewd long-term addition for the Magpies.

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