Newcastle United will look to press ahead with their transfer plans over the coming weeks as they attempt to get their targets in the door before pre-season starts. It was important for the club to keep hold of Rafa Benitez this summer, but they must now give him the tools that he needs to do the job ahead.
Spanish outlet Marca report that the Magpies are leading the race for Eibar centre-back Florian Lejeune after offering him terms that would double his current salary. They are prepared to meet his €10 million release clause and movement is expected soon.
Arsenal and Tottenham have both been credited with an interest, but it is the newly-promoted United that are closest to signing the Frenchman.
What would he bring to the North East?
Lejeune has starred in Spain for both Girona and Eibar, which has led to bigger clubs taking notice of the Frenchman. He is a no-nonsense defender who can dominate in the air and on the ground.
The Frenchman averaged 3.36 ball recoveries and 3.27 successful aerial duels every ninety minutes in La Liga for Eibar. He isn’t one to play out from the back, as underlined by his 5.91 clearances per ninety minutes.
Rafa Benitez will be wanting to improve his defensive options ahead of the Magpies’ first season back in the English top flight and this is the man that he believes fits the bill.
It isn’t going to be a signing that excites supporters as he is relatively unknown in this country, despite once being on the books of Manchester City. However, he has progressed a lot in the last two years and played a major role in Eibar’s success last season.
He is an aggressive defender that will be able to cope with the physical demands of the Premier League. Benitez clearly believes that Lejeune will be a good addition to the squad and the defender will benefit from the Spaniard’s coaching.
There will be an adjusting period when he does sign as there are stylistic differences between La Liga and the Premier League, but if anything, the latter should suit the centre-back better.
How likely is a deal?
This has been a deal that has been rumbling on for the last couple of weeks, being reported in both Spain and England. However, the report from Marca does suggest that it is progressing and nearing a conclusion. Newcastle will be looking to complete deals quickly and the existence of a reasonable release clause should help them get this one done.
It is impossible to separate the truth from fiction when it comes to transfer stories, but the reliable George Caulkin has reported interest, in The Times, and that should give supporters confidence that Newcastle are pursuing Lejeune.