Newcastle United completed their second signing of the summer last week and they could be set to ramp up their recruitment drive over the coming days. The wide positions appear to be a priority, with the Telegraph reporting that the Magpies are interested in signing former player Andros Townsend from Crystal Palace.
However, they will only make a move for the England international if Matt Ritchie is sold. Stoke City are one of the clubs believed to be interested in the right winger.
This is a surprising development and the club could be set to go full circle, as Ritchie was the player signed to replace Townsend at St James’ Park in 2016. At that time, the latter wanted to be playing Premier League football to reignite his international career, while the former saw a move to Newcastle as a chance to enhance his own reputation.
The report goes on to say that Townsend has remained on Newcastle’s radar since he left the club after relegation, but finances have prevented him returning up until now.
The fee and wages remain a problem, but Ritchie could be used to help finance a move if Stoke’s interest firms up. The relegated club have reportedly made him a priority target as they attempt to win promotion at the first attempt.
Supporters are split on these reports. There is no doubting the impact that Townsend had on Newcastle during his short spell in the North East. He was their standout player during the second half of their relegation campaign, with four goals and two assists in just over 1000 minutes of Premier League football. Considering the lack of quality and structure in that Magpies squad, his record is an impressive one.
Rafa Benitez was a huge fan of the winger after he took over as manager and he was keen to keep him at the club after relegation. The Spaniard then tried to sign him in January, but the board were unwilling to sanction a deal.
However, during the two years since his exit, Matt Ritchie has emerged as a key player for the club and his departure would be felt on and off the pitch. The Scottish international has scored 15 goals and contributed a further 12 assists in the league for Newcastle.
His influence decreased in the Premier League, but he continued to work hard and helped the team to a top-half finish. In addition to his attacking quality, he is a leader and a great influence in the dressing room. It would be doubtful that Townsend could replace what he offers off the pitch.
Since leaving Newcastle, Townsend has hardly set the world alight at Crystal Palace. He has had two decent seasons, but his contribution in the final third remains modest. He has scored five goals and contributed 11 assists for the Eagles across two seasons. If the finances being reported are to be believed, Benitez will want more consistency from the winger.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. The interest in both Townsend and Ritchie has been widely reported across the media. For Newcastle, they would be bringing back a player they sold two years ago and although he left against their will, it doesn’t show a lot of ambition. They finished in the top ten and are now targeting a player that left after relegation. If he is their main target for the summer, questions need to be asked about their ambition.