The mercurial “wizard” might have played his last for the Magpies…
Newcastle United have revelled in the jubilance of qualifying for the Champions League under Eddie Howe’s tutelage, but must now shift focus on making effective moves in the transfer market to secure their newfound spot among Europe’s elite.
Technical director Dan Ashworth is expected to target four ‘elite’ signings this summer to enrich the Magpies’ prospects of replicating their incredible work this season.
Liverpool and Chelsea were both out-of-sorts this term and neither club retained their spot in the top four of the Premier League; Aston Villa and Brighton & Hove Albion are also rising forces and will look to further their feats after qualifying for Europe.
Howe will be confident that his current crop can continue the industrious work forged thus far under his wing, but he will look to make the requisite upgrades where applicable, and the likes of Allan Saint-Maximin could fall prey as several departments of the Tyneside team are refashioned.
Should Newcastle sell Allan Saint-Maximin?
Saint-Maximin is one of Tyneside’s most beloved stars in recent history, signing from Ligue 1 outfit Nice for £16.5m in 2019 and forging 124 appearances, scoring 13 goals and supplying 24 assists.
He has never been the most prolific of players, but the £70k-per-week winger is a “wizard” with the ball – as proclaimed by Graeme Bailey – and ranks among the top 9% of positional peers across Europe’s top five leagues over the past year for shot-creating actions and the top 1% for progressive carries and successful take-ons per 90, as per FBref.
However, with just one goal and 14 starts across all competitions this term, he might be seeking new pastures if Howe is unable to offer him greater responsibility next season – and while European football will deepen the side’s competition, there are several factors that illustrate why this might not benefit the mercurial ace.
First and foremost, a first-rate winger is likely to be signed this summer as one of the forthcoming ‘elite’ additions, with free-scoring flanker Harvey Barnes, who has shone this year despite relegation with Leicester City, earmarked.
£63m club-record signing Alexander Isak has also been utilised out wide of late to accommodate Callum Wilson – who scored 18 top-flight goals from just 21 starts – as the central focal point, and while the Swede is less effective on the wing, he undoubtedly takes precedence when fully fit.
There’s also the case of Jacob Murphy, who with three goals in the final month of the campaign became one of the more pleasing success stories this season.
The 28-year-old would have been one of the favourites for the axe at the start of the campaign, but his diligence and tenacity have left him with unwavering support from his manager – no other Magpie has played more than his 68 games at the club under Howe.
Finally, Anthony Gordon scored his maiden goal in black and white against Chelsea after signing for £45m from Everton in January, and while Saint-Maximin was also “superb” against the Blues, as hailed by reporter Jordan Cronin, the 5 foot 8 Frenchman’s performance could be used to fuel intrigue in his services, with Transfermarkt currently valuing him at £30m.
In west London, Saint-Maximin made five key passes, won eight of his 15 duels and succeeded with six of his eight dribble attempts, earning a 7.4 match rating – via Sofascore – in one of his standout performances of the campaign.
Many supporters would likely bemoan the decision to part ways with the enigmatic ace. After all, he entered St. James’s Park when it was a ramshackled mess and was integral in offering a glimpse of a brighter future before the PIF takeover, captivating the swathes of Toon support with his fleet-footed runs.
But he is not getting the game-time he will desire at 26-years-old, and Howe must brazenly use the recent stellar showing against Chelsea to tout his name, freeing up room for a superlative new addition to wreak havoc down the left flank.