ALAN Pardew feels Newcastle defender Davide Santon has grown from a boy to a man this season – and now ranks as a superior replacement to former fans’ favourite Jose Enrique.
Santon’s excellent early-season form has been one of the major bonuses for boss Pardew as his team have made a steady start to a campaign that sees them fighting on four fronts.
The Italian’s future at Newcastle United was a major talking point for the club’s powers-that-be over the summer, with considerable thought given to signing a new left-back and deploying Santon on the right of defence to correct some of his positional flaws. His advisers were also sounded out about the possibility of a Serie A return with AS Roma, but Pardew was convinced that he would come good and has persevered with him at left-back since the season kicked off in August.
The response of the defender has been impressive, with Pardew of the opinion that Santon is now fulfilling the potential that encouraged no lesser judge than Jose Mourinho to laud him as the future of Inter Milan when he first broke into the side at the San Siro.
“I think he is better than that. I think he was a boy then and
he was a boy last year too. He is a man now and is starting to play like a man,” he said.
“His raids down the left-hand side are becoming better – he is as potent as Jonas from the left-back position.
“I think that is his best position because he can go both ways. He is comfortable down the outside, like with that chance for (Papiss) Cisse (on Sunday) where he delivered a great cross.
“He still has lots to learn, trust me, to be a top Italian full-back, but he is certainly making some inroads.”
United took a risk when they signed Santon, who had big boots to fill in the shape of crowd favourite Enrique.
But as the Spaniard struggles to get into Liverpool’s team, the Italian appears to be increasingly feeling at home at St James’ Park.
“If you thought we were going to get an instant replacement for Enrique, we would have had to pay more than £10m,” Pardew said.
“Instead, we got a young player who was going to grow with us and he is starting to grow and be very effective for us.
“I am so pleased for him. He is a lovely lad, loves the area and does a great job.
“His language skills have improved.
“I think he has a North East girlfriend now cooking him some nice pies so he is a bit happier.
“He just looks in a good place and I am really pleased with him.”
Pardew is likely to field Santon at Old Trafford tonight as one of a host of bigger names who will play their part in the Capital One Cup clash.
Fabricio Coloccini, Cheick Tiote and even Papiss Cisse may get their opportunity as Pardew sets out to break a barren run of more than 50 years without a domestic trophy.
He certainly feels that Newcastle have a team capable of doing it – although he admits good fortune will play its part.
“Of course, those players starting says its own message and there is a good chance they will start,” he said.
“I probably wouldn’t have said we could win a trophy on the day I walked in here, but I do now.
“Sometimes, they say your name is written on the cup and you need that bit of luck.
“Sir Alex says that often. You need that bit of luck to win a cup, so hopefully it will shine on us because it has been a lot of barren years without a trophy.
“The fans are looking at the team now thinking maybe now we could do something.”