The £20m Giorgi Mamardashvili alternative that could transform Newcastle for years to come

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Newcastle’s attempt to sign a goalkeeper this summer aren’t going to plan - but they have a back-up option who could be ideal.

Newcastle United’s best-laid plans are not coming to fruition in the early stages of the summer transfer window. Reports suggest that Chelsea have already beaten the Magpies to one key transfer target, Tosin Adarabioyo, and they may well do so a second time if their rumoured interest in Valencia goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili results in a successful bid. With their apparent top target now tougher to get and a move for Aaron Ramsdale looking less likely thanks to Arsenal’s asking price, Eddie Howe and his scouting team may well be forced to look elsewhere.

Failing to find a new goalkeeper would not necessarily be a disaster. Although he spent a large portion of last season sidelined by a dislocated shoulder, Nick Pope remains a fine shot stopper who is increasingly comfortable playing the sweeper-keeper role demanded by his manager. He has two years left on his contract at St. James’ Park and, at 32, there’s no reason to believe that they wouldn’t be good years.

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But the desire to find a replacement remains. That explains a recent report from The Daily Mail which suggests that Newcastle are looking at a possible £20m bid for Burnley’s James Trafford, the 21-year-old former Manchester City player who moved to Turf Moor last summer for a reported £15m but who has since been relegated with the Clarets – and he could be a very fine acquisition indeed if Mamardashvili and Ramsdale prove unobtainable.

At first glance, a bid for Trafford may seem strange. The youngster has been called up to England’s training squad ahead of Euro 2024 but struggled at times in his first season as a Premier League starter, conceding 62 goals and eventually losing his place to Aro Murić. It wasn’t a performance which would typically attract top clubs, but there is more to Trafford that a tough debut campaign as a starter might suggest.

Trafford may have conceded a lot of goals, but that largely reflects the immense pressure he routinely faced as the last line of defence for a relegated team. He also made over a hundred saves and kept several scorelines respectable when they might otherwise have looked more appropriate for a cricket match. His save percentage of 65.7% was low, but compared to the volume of expected goals he faced, his raw numbers weren’t so far off a par score.

Newcastle, of course, need more than a par score, and the way Trafford lost form and apparent confidence after a fine run of games through the winter could be a cause for concern, but he has also demonstrated a big-match mentality before – during last summer’s European Under-21 Championships, he saved a penalty and rebound in the final against Spain and went the entire tournament without conceding a goal, the first player to achieve that feat. When his confidence is rebuilt, there is considerable evidence of a goalkeeper with colossal potential.

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He's tall at over 6’5” and has the reach to make saves slightly shorter goalkeepers like Pope can’t, and he commands his area exceptionally well – he deals with high balls like he’s been playing at the top level all his life. He’s also a natural outside the area and while Pope has adapted his game to come out to support a high line and cut out balls over the top, Trafford is more technically confident and is happier to take a touch and pick a pass. That’s a huge attribute to have in a system like Newcastle’s which prioritises intense pressing and a compact pitch.

Of course, he still needs to get through his rough run of form this year and that may not be a short process – which is why he makes a lot of sense for Newcastle in particular, because he would be in a position to sit and learn behind Pope for a year or two before he was called upon to act as number one in his own right. There’s an argument that spending £20m on a goalkeeper who would not necessarily start from day one is a bit of a luxury, but Trafford has the potential to be worth every penny before too long.

There’s no doubt that signing Mamardashvili would be the biggest coup possible, especially with Chelsea and their predilection for huge contracts in the mix, and the 23-year-old Georgian is establishing himself as one of the best stoppers in the world. But should that transfer prove impossible, then signing Trafford is the kind of move which could have huge benefits in the long term. A difficult month or so at Burnley shouldn’t detract from the player he looks set to

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