Spirits have soured at St. James’ Park after two straight 2-0 losses, with their ambitions of qualifying for the Champions League now seriously doubted following their first setback to Borussia Dortmund.
Eddie Howe’s team presently sit bottom of Group F and would be kicked out of Europe completely if remaining in last position. Newcastle would have to slip into the Europa League if they finished third.
Another defeat followed at the weekend, this time against lowly Bournemouth in the Premier League.
A raft of injuries have hampered Howe’s side of late, though that is an issue all big sides whose fixture lists are congested by European football must wrestle with.
Now, according to The Sun, the Magpies could remedy their woes by way of a gigantic transfer splash in January.
The publication state Newcastle are eyeing up Sporting Lisbon centre-back Ousmane Diomande and have scouted the teenage phenom ‘at least three times’ this season.
The most recent scouting visit took place over the weekend of Sporting’s 2-1 loss to Benfica. In the fierce battle, Diomande, 19, played the whole ninety minutes, as he has in all but one of Sporting’s Primeira Liga games this season.
The formidable Ivory Coast center-half is referred to by The Sun as “the best African prospect playing in Europe right now.” That’s high praise indeed, and it shows in his transfer valuation.
In fact, Sporting will not consider a mid-season sale for any amount less than his around £70 million release clause, as TEAMtalk recently disclosed.
The £70 million clause, according to The Sun, is also necessary to enable Diomande’s January signing.
Chelsea and Arsenal placed in alert
Diomande has also attracted the curiosity of Chelsea and Arsenal. Indeed, we have verified that The Gunners have had discussions with Prospect Global, the player’s agency.
Although Newcastle might cause a stir by moving six months ahead of schedule in January, Arsenal would prefer to strike at the end of the season.
Chelsea, on the other hand, has evaluated Diomande as a possible Thiago Silva substitute. The elegant Brazilian is in the last year of his deal with The Blues, and an extension is not anticipated.
Newcastle currently appears woefully thin at center-back, as demonstrated by Sven Botman’s injury-related absence.
Alongside Fabian Schar, Jamaal Lascelles has filled the vacuum, although there aren’t many other notable center backs beyond them.
Dan Burn is a center player, although Howe has mostly deployed him at left back.