The game-changing £60m James Maddison alternative Newcastle United must consider if Spurs win transfer race

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The Magpies will have to look elsewhere for creativity - but there is one option in the Bundesliga that can offer Eddie Howe what he craves from his players.

Newcastle United’s attempts to sign James Maddison have been ongoing for the last year - but they seem set to come to an unsuccessful conclusion as Tottenham Hotspur are close to agreeing a deal for the Leicester City star, with personal terms now said to be agreed as the clubs prepare to thrash out a fee.

Twelve months ago, fresh from a much-improved second half to the Premier League season that saw the Magpies wrestle themselves from the chains of relegation and into the welcome embrace of mid-table safety, changes were afoot at St James’ Park.

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Adding a large dose of creativity and attacking flair was on the agenda for Eddie Howe and the PIF-led consortium that had completed a protracted takeover just eighth months earlier and Maddison was the man identified to fulfil that wish. Despite three bids in excess of £40m, the Foxes resisted and retained the services of the England international - yet the Magpies interest remained strong and contact between the two clubs has continued ever since.

However, as NewcastleWorld revealed last week, Newcastle’s valuation of Maddison remained some distance short of Leicester’s and the same stance was taken on Maddison’s personal terms, which would have made him United’s highest earner even if or indeed when the Magpies complete the signing of AC Milan and Italy midfielder Sandro Tonali. That meant advantage Spurs in the race for Maddison and it now looks increasingly likely Maddison will head to north London over the coming days.

This leaves Newcastle to consider their options as they look to strengthen their midfield options and add some much needed depth to their squad ahead of their return to the Champions League.

James Maddison of Leicester looks on during the Premier League match (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)James Maddison of Leicester looks on during the Premier League match (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
James Maddison of Leicester looks on during the Premier League match (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images) | Getty Images

One move that is already close to completion is the deal for Tonali, who is expected to officially be unveiled as a Newcastle player over the coming days after he agreed personal terms on a move to Tyneside. The addition of the Italy Under-21 captain will give a fascinating dynamic to the Magpies midfield, as he’s capable of thriving both in a holding role or in a more advanced position - much like star man Bruno Guimaraes, which could see them become a dream pairing.

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Despite the presence of the ever-reliable Sean Longstaff, the explosive Joe Willock and the rock solid Joelinton in Howe’s squad, a more creative option is still required - and the Magpies’ eyes have fallen upon RB Leipzig star Dominik Szoboszlai, who has been repeatedly linked with a move to the North East in recent weeks.

There were reports earlier this month suggesting Newcastle’s battle with Financial Fair Play regulations meant it was a case of Maddison or Szoboszlai - and a move for latter could prove more prudent given his suitability for Eddie Howe’s preferred style of play and the fact he fits into the age profile United have preferred in their recent major moves in the transfer market.

At 22, Szoboszlai is four years younger than Maddison and brings more experience of competing in the Champions League after making a total of 23 appearances in European football’s elite club cup competition for RB Leipzig and RB Salzburg, as well as two appearances for the latter in the qualifying rounds during the 2020/21 season.

RB Leipzig attacking midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai. (Photo by ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images)RB Leipzig attacking midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai. (Photo by ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images)
RB Leipzig attacking midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai. (Photo by ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

Comparing the Hungary international’s statistics with those returned by Maddison last season also shows why he is under serious consideration by the Magpies hierarchy. Of course, we have to consider the latter was heavily involved in Leicester’s unsuccessful bid to avoid relegation from the Premier League and give a nod to the fact a return of ten goals and nine assists in 32 appearances in all competition is a fine performance in such a struggling side.

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Szoboszlai’s own stats show a return of 23 goal involvements (10 goals and 13 assists) in 46 appearances in all competitions for Leipzig as his side ended the season in third place in the Bundesliga, as well as reaching the last 16 of the Champions League and winning the DFP-Pokal (German Cup) with a 2-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt.

However, taking a deeper dive into the statistics of both players shows that it is Szoboszlai that may prove a more suitable fit for Howe’s Newcastle. The 22-year-old was largely used on the right-hand side of a front three last season, a position where the Magpies need an upgrade despite the impressive form of Miguel Almiron and Jacob Murphy in the 2022/23 campaign. But his flexibility and ability to play in several roles will not have gone unnoticed by the United manager or his recruitment staff.

Nor will his impressive statistics in and out of possession, with ball retention, a desire to press and physicality all non-negotiables for Howe as he looks to continue the upturn in fortunes he has overseen at St James’ Park since replacing Steve Bruce in October 2021.

Eddie Howe is weighing up a move for Joachim Andersen (Image: Getty Images)Eddie Howe is weighing up a move for Joachim Andersen (Image: Getty Images)
Eddie Howe is weighing up a move for Joachim Andersen (Image: Getty Images) | Getty Images

Comparing Szoboszlai and Maddison’s defensive actions with the use of FBref.com shows it is the latter that made more successful tackles and blocks in the own third last season - but it is the Hungarian that acheived a higher rate in the middle and final thirds, showing he can give Howe the high pressing and physical approach he demands in all of his players.

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Szoboszlai’s average pass completion in all three thirds of the pitch is also higher than Maddison’s and he has a higher average of goal creating actions (a pass to create an assist or the assist itself) and shot creating actions than the England star. Szoboszlai’s averages are 0.63 per 90 minutes for goal creating actions and 5.51 for shot creating actions compared to Maddison’s 0.47 and 5.01.

Pass completion rates also fall in the Hungarian’s favour, with Szoboszlai’s average coming in at just under 80%, almost 6% higher than the Leicester playmaker - although it should be added Maddison has a marginally higher average when it comes to expected assists, which sits at 0.34 per 90 minutes compared to Szobsozlai’s 0.30.

Newcastle United defender Sven Botman celebrates the club's win over Nottingham Forest with midfielder Bruno Guimaraes.Newcastle United defender Sven Botman celebrates the club's win over Nottingham Forest with midfielder Bruno Guimaraes.
Newcastle United defender Sven Botman celebrates the club's win over Nottingham Forest with midfielder Bruno Guimaraes.

Although there is little to choose between the two players, and taking into account Leicester’s struggles and the fact Szoboszlai will need to adapt to the Premier League, there seems a number of key pointers to show why Newcastle will progress with their interest in the Hungary star.

As mentioned earlier, at 22-years-old, he falls into the same age bracket as other big money Magpies signings such as Sven Botman (23), Alexander Isak (23), Guimaraes (25), Anthony Gordon (22) and - once it is completed - Sandro Tonali (23), meaning there are solid, long-lasting foundations for Howe’s Newcastle to grow upon as they look to deliver on the ambitions of the club’s owners in the Premier League and elsewhere.

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Missing out on Maddison is a blow - but in Szoboszlai, they could have a highly effective alternative that would be a very productive addition to the Magpies ranks if they can complete a move for the RB Leipzig star.

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