NUFC target Jan Vertonghen keeps options open

NEWCASTLE United target Jan Vertonghen admits he is keen on a summer transfer - but will not decide where he wants to go until the end of the Dutch season.

Newcastle United target Jan Vertonghen
Newcastle United target Jan Vertonghen

NEWCASTLE United target Jan Vertonghen admits he is keen on a summer transfer - but will not decide where he wants to go until the end of the Dutch season.

The Ajax centre-back has emerged as one of the Magpies’ priority targets this summer, along with Swansea City’s Gylfi Sigurdsson, as they look to bolster their squad for a first European campaign in five years.

It was his performances in Ajax’s Europa League games with Manchester United that brought the 24-year-old Belgian to the attention of English football fans.

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has scouted Vertonghen a number of times this season.

Having successfully signed Cheick Tioté from FC Twente two years ago, the Dutch Eredivisie is one of those the Magpies have targeted in the transfer market, believing it offers value for money. Joe Cole recently said he had seen Pardew at half a dozen games this season. He is on a season-long loan at Yohan Cabaye’s former club, Lille.

With Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur other clubs linked, the 36-cap international seems certain to have no shortage of offers in the summer.

“Everybody knows that I’m open to a transfer, but you shouldn’t want to leave at all costs,” he told a Dutch newspaper.

“I have a few things lined up at the moment, but it’s difficult to say anything about that at the moment. I’ll see what happens, if something becomes concrete.

“I’m focusing on putting in good performances and winning the league title for now.”

Newcastle have been a centre-back light all season, something they tried and failed to address in both transfer windows. At times this season they have had only one specialist available. At Norwich City, where they lost 4-2, they had none.

Left-footer Vertonghen can also play as a defensive midfielder.

The Dutch season proper runs until May 6. Champions-elect Ajax are almost certain to avoid the Europa League play-offs for teams finishing fourth to seventh.

The Magpies are also understood to be interested in signing £8m-rated Sigurdsson.

The Icelandic midfielder has been on loan at Swansea since January, where he has impressed greatly.

He has scored seven goals and created two more in 15 appearances for the Swans, form which made him the Premier League’s player of the month for March.

Sigurdsson is on loan from German club Hoffenheim, where he briefly played with Newcastle’s Demba Ba.

Before that he had a two-year spell at Pardew’s former club Reading, although the pair did not work together.

In his time at the Madejski Stadium he was loaned to Crewe Alexandra and Shrewsbury Town.

His move from Reading to Hoffenheim in August 2010 was for a fee of around £6.5m. In all he scored ten goals in 39 appearances in Germany, making another four.

Meanwhile, Newcastle coach John Carver has explained the decision to invite Newcastle Eagles’ basketball team to the training ground this week was designed to freshen tired Magpies minds.

“The key is to try to keep their mind active from what they normally do in the week,” he told the club’s official website.

“It can become very mundane if you aren’t careful, doing the same thing in the same environment every day.

“We are trying to freshen things up and you can sense by the players’ moods that they will be raring to go for Stoke City.”

Pardew invited the Eagles, Britain’s most successful basketball team, to play the Magpies at football and basketball at their Darsley Park training ground this week. Fabulous Flournoy’s side came out on top overall, as they have tended to in this season’s British Basketball League. They have won three of the four trophies on offer, and are looking to complete the set by winning the BBL’s end-of-season play-offs.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer