NEWCASTLE United have already begun drawing up plans to bolster their defensive options in January.
The Journal can reveal that United, who consciously avoided being drawn into the hunt for a centre-back over the summer, have begun scouting options for that position, some four months before the transfer window opens at the turn of the year.
Even before the injuries to Danny Simpson and Fabricio Coloccini that have left Newcastle concerned in the run-up to their clash with Everton, the club’s hierarchy had decided that the defence will be a priority in the next window.
The Journal understands that Newcastle are once again interested in Montpellier centre-back Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, who will be allowed to talk to interested clubs from January as his contract expires in the summer.
United passed on the 23-year-old over the close season because of the prohibitive price that was being demanded by Montpellier and agent’s costs. But with both the French club and the player eager to move on, it is an option being investigated.
It is understood that some within the Newcastle hierarchy expressed concerns about his relative lack of height – he is just over 6ft – but he qualifies as the ball-playing centre-back that Alan Pardew has long wanted to add to his squad.
The club faced accusations that they did not invest over the summer but a by-product of that is they still have funds left for possible recruitment in January.
Having compiled a list of players whose contracts run out at the end of the season, Newcastle might prefer to do business at the turn of the year – as they did with Papiss Cisse.
One area where they no longer feel the need to strengthen is at left-back, where Davide Santon continues to improve.
The Italian feels as if he has settled into the routine of the Premier League now and after turning down two approaches from Serie A clubs, he is looking forward to a long future with United.
“I feel like I have settled into English football,” he said. “Maybe it takes time but I think I am now settled and I understand the Premier League better.
“Against Aston Villa I think I had a great game but I can do better. I feel good in England now, I want to stay in England for a very long time and I want to help my team for the rest of the season.”
At the start of the close season there was talk of a move to right-back as Pardew wanted to see progress from Santon.
That has been delivered while in his usual left-black slot, and happily for Newcastle, the defender is settled and performing to the top of his abilities.
“This summer, there was a chance for me to go to Italy. One or two teams in Italy wanted to take me back but I always wanted to stay in Newcastle. I love Newcastle and I do not want to leave,” he said.
“I did not want to take that chance because I like my coach, I like my team and I like everything surrounding the club. It is a great club and I feel really good about my future at Newcastle.”
In the meantime, the Magpies are optimistic that Coloccini’s ‘muscle injury’ will not be a serious set-back.
He has remained with the Argentina squad following scans which would suggest the problem is not as bad as first feared.
Newcastle were remaining cagey on the severity of the injury, but confirmed that the defender would stay in South America for the time being.