NEWCASTLE United’s summer recruitment drive is likely to be limited to a striker and a central defender as the club takes a conscious decision to add quality rather than quantity this close season.
United are yet to make an offer for any player – either in contract or out of contract – and believe their January business has given them some of the strength in depth that was missing earlier in the season. But a striker is the club’s top priority, along with a centre-back – even if they manage to keep hold of skipper Fabricio Coloccini.
Like most Premier League clubs, Newcastle are in no rush to do business early and many senior figures at the club are currently away.
There has been a flurry of speculation about the future of some of the club’s key men but there have been no enquiries from any interested suitors yet. Newcastle are prepared for enquiries for Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye and Papiss Cissé but are not in the mood to sell any of them unless they receive “game-changing offers” as they look for a vast improvement on last season’s 16th place.
United are monitoring a number of other younger players, including Derby County’s Will Hughes, but any further movement is likely to depend on outgoings once again.
There is no interest in Blackpool’s Tom Ince or Braga striker Eder, who is still injured.
Departures are likely, but it is more likely to be fringe squad men who are following Danny Simpson and Steve Harper through the exit door with Newcastle prepared to listen for offers for the likes of Mike Williamson and midfielder Dan Gosling. They will also use pre-season to judge whether Sammy Ameobi, Shane Ferguson, James Tavernier and the returning Haris Vuckic have made enough progress to give them a chance of playing any part in the first-team squad.
Middlesbrough are interested in taking Ameobi on loan again next season.
It appears increasingly unlikely that Newcastle will move for St Etienne’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, once considered their number one summer striker target.
They are ready to look elsewhere now, however, and Aubameyang did not mention Newcastle when he talked about the clubs that have opened discussions with him. Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund and Swansea City were all name-checked by the Gabon international, but Newcastle’s interest – which mushroomed into two separate bids in January – has not been followed up this summer.
“I have met with Rudi Völler (sporting director of Bayer Leverkusen) twice, but whether or not St Etienne accept the (Leverkusen’s) offer is a different matter,” he said.
“Dortmund have been following me for more than a year now. I have met with Michael Laudrup and they (Swansea) have a good project, but I need Champions League (football) to progress.”
Meanwhile, The Journal understands the club are preparing to return to Portugal again this summer for pre-season. Having broken off talks with organisers of a tournament based in South Africa, they are now planning to stay within Europe for their summer training camp, with both the Algarve and Lisbon under consideration.
A game against Sporting Lisbon is a possibility – and Braga have also been sounded out about a fixture in Portugal in July.
United played in the Algarve Tournament last summer and even though the event was a commercial disappointment for the organisers, Newcastle were impressed with the facilities.
Trips to America, Brazil and the Far East were mooted during the course of the year, but United pulled out of talks with sponsors in South Africa a couple of weeks ago after delays in getting a “sign-off” from local companies.