Newcastle United twice failed in their efforts to lure Hugo Ekitike to Tyneside but the former transfer target could be available once again with PSG said to be ‘open’ to a deal this summer
It only takes a quick search of Twitter at several stages of the season just gone to gauge the Toon Army’s view on Hugo Ekitike. Fans have undoubtedly enjoyed the former Newcastle United transfer target’s struggles since joining Paris Saint-Germain last summer.
The Magpies twice had offers accepted by Reims for the young forward in 2022, and both approaches were turned down by the in-demand teenager. The first proposal came on deadline day in January, with Ekitike unconvinced the ‘timing was right’ to move to a new country during his breakout season.
Newcastle revisited their interest in the summer, and again struck an agreement with the Ligue 1 side for the attacker who finished the season with 11 goals to his name. However, Ekitike once again refused the club’s advances and after a frustrating delay in talks, decided to joing PSG on an initial season-long loan deal.
Eddie Howe addressed the failed pursuit publicly, insisting he held no bad feelings over the forward’s decision and stressed the setback was merely a sign of the clubs Newcastle were now competing against in the market. This view was not shared by fans however, with many souring on the prospective deal before Ekitike was unveiled as PSG’s latest recruit.
In truth, it seems harsh to judge Ekitike for his desire to prioritise a transfer to the French champions and the Champions League runners-up in 2020 over a move to Tyneside. The player himself later stressed he would have accepted Newcastle’s approach had PSG eventually not come calling.
Of course, the reports over ‘ridiculous’ demands from Ekitike’s agent holding up the deal before Christopher Galtier’s side seemingly showed their hand is harder to defend. It is also hard to envisage a scenario where the youth international’s debut season at the Parc des Princes would have played out much differently.
Ekitike obviously played second fiddle to the superstar frontline of Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Neymar, with many of his 32 appearances inevitably coming from the bench. The summer signing did not make his first start until October, and had to wait until December to get off the mark for his new club.
Reports suggest PSG have been obliged to make the move permanent after securing a top-two league finish, but this agreement along with the departure of Messi has seemingly not stopped the club putting Ekitike on the market. French outlet RMC Sport claim the French champions are ‘open to a departure’ for the forward, with Marco Asensio already signed and Marcus Thuram also said to be on the club’s radar.
Newcastle under Howe have already proven they not afraid to revisit moves for their preferred targets, with Sven Botman and Anthony Gordon both landed at the second attempt. It is also perhaps telling that the Magpies head coach chose to address the Ekitike rumours publicly last summer, admitting he is a player he ‘really liked’ and wishing him the best.
But in addition to the thorny issue of already being snubbed twice, it is also impossible to ignore that the circumstances for both the club and the player have shifted significantly in the space of a year. Newcastle are now gearing up for a first European campaign in a decade, with ‘elite’ recruits on the agenda.
The Magpies moved on from the Ekitike deal to land Alexander Isak, and even the record signing was not guaranteed a starting spot up front despite his impressive form due to Callum Wilson’s 18-goal haul. Competition for places is also fierce on the flanks, with Miguel Almiron enjoying his best goalscoring return in black-and-white, and Gordon battling with Isak, Joelinton, Joe Willock and Allan Saint-Maximin on the left.
Newcastle will obviously target improvements across the board in order to prepare their squad for the challenge of competing on four fronts next term. Even in the currently hypothetical scenario of the Magpies returning for Ekitike for a third time, the forward would likely be in a similar position of having to settle for an initial bench role.
Newcastle might well have firmly closed the door on the now PSG forward as a result of last summer’s saga. However, Jamie Reuben has outlined the ‘detailed’ process the club’s hierarchy adopt when it comes to transfers, and the fact the board twice sanctioned a move for Ekitike having thoroughly assessed the player’s character and the data means the prospect of a third approach should not entirely discounted.
It would be a case of having to swallow their pride if Newcastle did choose to attempt the deal for the third time in less than two years. But given their prior efforts and the potential for a deal at a similar fee, there is no way Ekitike’s prospective availability will have gone unnoticed among the Magpies recruitment team.