Newcastle United would be getting a ‘real entertainer’ in James Maddison should they persuade Leicester City to cash in on the midfield. United are currently locked in negotiations with the East Midlands side who are reluctant to sell Maddison.
The 25-year-old has been a huge hit at The King Power Stadium since arriving from Norwich City in 2018. For BBC 5 Live’s Ian Dennis, it is no surprise to see Newcastle, now under ambitious ownership, make a move for a player of Maddison’s quality.
Dennis spoke to Chronicle Live ahead of Newcastle’s opening fixture of the new season with Nottingham Forest which will be broadcast exclusively on BBC 5 Live. Asked about his thoughts on United’s chase for Maddison, he said: “It would be very exciting [to sign him]. I think if Maddison came to Newcastle United, you’d have a real entertainer.
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“You know somebody who can create something out of nothing. With the number of goals he scores, he’s a threat and he provides assists. I just think he’s a very, very talented young man. So if Newcastle United were to bring him to the northeast, it would not only weaken a rival for one of those places that Newcastle are looking for but it would be a player who would be very, very popular on Tyneside for the type of footballer he is – he plays football with a smile.”
Newcastle have seen a second bid for Maddison rejected by Leicester with the Foxes determined to keep the core of their team that has largely impressed under boss Brendan Rodgers. As with many other pursuits during the current transfer window, Newcastle have not found it easy to sign their targets.
While Sven Botman, Nick Pope and Matt Targett have arrived, the hierarchy have seen the likes of Hugo Ekitike go elsewhere, while others like Moussa Diaby opted to stay at his current club. Yet despite the clear frustrations with the market, Dennis believes United deserve some praise for sticking to their approach.
“I can understand that it must have been a very frustrating transfer market for Eddie Howe at the minute and it’s inevitable in a way with Newcastle United’s newfound wealth that clubs are going to be asking for a little bit more. But it’s important that Newcastle United don’t panic buy and that they still go after the focused targets, the players that they’ve been pursuing for a while because it’s very easy to make a knee-jerk reaction in the transfer market, and then the expectations rise because you’ve signed six players. It’s important to get the right player rather than just any player.
“Newcastle are having to do it differently to Manchester City. If you think when Manchester City were taken over in 2008, they accelerated their way to challenge the top four. They brought in players such as Robinho, Carlos Tevez, Gareth Barry, Joleon Lescott, Adebayor and Kolo Toure – they had a sustained spell in the first two or three windows where they really splashed the cash. They needed to do that in order to accelerate their way to challenge the top four.
“Newcastle United aren’t going to do that. The process is going to be a little bit more of a slower process – a steady process in comparison to what Manchester City did.”
The very fact that Newcastle’s owners are made up of a majority shareholder from the Middle East and in particular the Gulf region brought inevitable comparisons with Manchester City. But as Dennis has noted, the football landscape has changed and he hopes that very fact will help shield Newcastle and Howe from any immediate unrealistic expectations.
“It’s unfair and unrealistic for Newcastle United to be seen as a challenger towards the top four. Newcastle fans may say, ‘well, hold on, look at what we achieved in the second half of last season – and the points tally that we gained in those 19 games,’ but are you expecting Newcastle to finish above Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United?
“The answer is no. So I think it would be unfair on Eddie Howe, to expect Newcastle United to be challenging for the Champions League, and sometimes a manager isn’t going to come out and say that because that would be shooting himself in the foot.
“But I think it’s for others who judge neutrally and impartially to actually say, well, that actually is an unrealistic expectation for Newcastle United. Newcastle have got to maybe target the top eight, a good cup run, try and get into the fringes of Europe and to try and maybe remove a Leicester or West Ham United.
“That would be a much more realistic ambition with the players that they’ve signed so far. It might well change in the next six weeks if that can bring in three or four more players but I think that’s probably unlikely.”
United are into the final few days of preparation for the kick-off of the new Premier League season – something that seemed unlikely at the end of 2021 given the club’s position in the Premier League table. Howe replaced Steve Bruce in November but managed only one win in his first nine games.
Within that run of games, United were dumped out of the cup by Cambridge and drew with safety rivals Watford at St James’ Park. Dennis, who covered the 1-1 draw with the Hornets, admits he wondered if United could survive.
“It’s funny because that cup defeat, I thought would have been a real body blow in terms of morale, but the Watford game was probably more damaging because you had a relegation rival denying Newcastle United three points. At that stage, you’re thinking how are Newcastle going to get out of it? The fact that they were able to get the level of points return they did, if they can replicate that this year, you’re looking at a challenging team for Europe.
“So I just think full credit to the players and the manager. In the end, finishing 11th made a mockery of everybody who thought that at one stage they were in real jeopardy to go down.”
You can listen to Newcastle United vs Nottingham exclusively on BBC 5 Live. Find it on your DAB or using the BBC Sounds App.
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