NEWCASTLE United are set to move Davide Santon to right-back next season as they look for improvements from their £5million Italian international.
The Journal understands Santon’s role next season has been the subject of high-level talks among the club’s key powerbrokers – with manager Alan Pardew open to the idea of moving him from the left-back slot he has occupied this season.
The United boss would also like to add a right-back this summer – Mathieu Debuchy of Lille and Burnley’s Kieran Trippier are two in the frame – but Santon is the contingency plan if they cannot strike a deal at the right price.
With Danny Simpson set to depart if he doesn’t sign his new contract, United are looking at how to reshuffle their back four on a budget.
And Santon moving to right-back on a permanent basis would free up cash for Newcastle to sign long-term target, Holland international Erik Pieters, who can play at both left-back and centre-back. It is understood that versatility has been added to the United transfer brief for this summer.
Santon has improved immeasurably since joining United but at a club where no money is spent lightly, they will expect further improvements from him next year. Of all of the summer additions, his bedding-in period was the longest but by the end of the season there were signs that he was beginning to get to grips with the Premier League.
Undoubtedly strong going forward, he remains a work-in-progress defensively despite some strong displays during United’s spring surge towards Europe. Moving sides would also see him reprising the role that he sometimes fills in
for his country – and Santon admits he would be open to it.
“If the manager asked me to play either I’d be happy to because I can play both positions,” he told The Journal.
“Playing at right-back is something I’d be open to. As to my preference, it just depends on the game. I just like to get forward, so whichever position allows me to get forward more I prefer.”
Pardew is still waiting to hear the exact size of the budget available to him but knows that little significant business will be carried out before the European Championhips. The club are letting the dust settle on the campaign before making moves but he will be back at United’s training base in Benton next week to tie up a few loose ends.
One player who certainly won’t be joining the summer exodus is James Perch, who improved substantially over the course of the season and has the added bonus of adaptability.
He looked back on an excellent campaign and admitted United’s finish was beyond his wildest dreams. “If you’d offered us fifth at the start of the season we’d have snapped your hand off,” he told Newcastle’s official website. “To give ourselves a chance of getting fourth going into the last game was a massive achievement.”
Meanwhile, reports in South Africa have claimed United are in advanced negotiations to play in the Vodacom Challenge in Johannesburg as part of their pre-season plans. The Journal understands that talks have taken place but nothing has been finalised with the Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates – the two South African sides who host the tournament. A short European trip is also on the agenda for United, who expect to announce their full pre-season programme some time next week.