Newcastle are looking to add at least another few players to their squad before the transfer window closes in a month’s time, with Anthony Knockaert emerging as a priority target. The North East club have already had an £8 million bid turned down by Brighton, but according to reports today, they are set to increase that in the coming days.
The Shields Gazette report that it would take an offer of at least £10 million to convince Brighton to sell. Although Rafael Benitez has the funds available after the sale of Georginio Wijnaldum, it remains to be seen whether he considers Knockaert to be worth that level of investment.
The French winger moved to the Seagulls in January, joining for just under £3 million and was a revelation as Brighton challenged for promotion. They had struggled over Christmas, but Knockaert struck fear into opposition
defences and his influence was evident immediately. Over the last five matches of the campaign, Brighton scored 14 goals and finished the season as the league’s joint highest scorers.
Knockaert himself ended the season with five goals and six assists since joining in January. He was one of the best players in the division over the second half of the term and reignited Brighton’s promotion push.
Knockaert did not register a goal or an assist during the 2014/15 season with Leicester City and was sold on last summer as he was deemed surplus to requirements. At that time, he wasn’t ready to step up to the Premier League. However, he has looked much better since returning to England after a brief stint at Standard Liege, and it is easy to see why Newcastle are interested.
The Frenchman guarantees goals and assists at Championship level. In addition, at the age of 24, Knockaert is still young and with the influence of Benitez, he could develop into a player worthy of Premier League status at Newcastle.
At St James’ Park over the years, they had several exciting French wingers and Knockaert would fit that profile. He looks to be aggressive with the ball and beat defenders in the final third. There were times last season when he beat three or four players, displaying both his skill and close ball control.
The Brighton winger is direct and always poses a goal threat, as his style creates space for other players in the attack. He also possesses wonderful set pieces, an area in which Newcastle themselves are lacking coming into the season.
Benitez is targeting Knockaert to provide more creativity to his attack, as it has been an area for concern during pre-season. The money is available and it would signal a statement of intent to the league, as they would be buying a key player from a promotion rival. It would be interesting to see how he would be utilised at Newcastle as his best position is on the right wing.
However, Matt Ritchie also prefers to play there and one would be required to play on the left or in a central area. That being said, the pair could play in a fluid attacking three alongside Ayoze Perez, which would be exciting to watch and not restrict any to an unfamiliar role.
This move is likely to develop further in the coming days as Newcastle attempt to add to their squad before their opening match against Fulham. Knockaert is a player they want, but it will be hard to convince Brighton to sell to a promotion rival. Newcastle are already favourites to win the division and if they manage to bring Knockaert to St James’ Park, that will only be consolidated. Furthermore, he is going to cost more than treble the price that the South Coast outfit paid just six months ago.
Although Brighton are likely to be around the top six again this season, Knockaert is central to their chances. Newcastle could manage to strengthen their own squad and weaken a rival in one move. The French winger may not be exactly what they need, introducing selection problems revolving himself and Matt Ritchie, but the positives far outweigh the negatives.
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