Newcastle United FC – Recruitment Analysis – Part Five

Centre Midfielder

Despite Newcastle’s numerous options in central midfield, there is some room for improvement, and with Matty Longstaff needing more minutes in order to develop and Hendrick providing cover in several different positions, it could be a good idea to bring in a more natural central midfielder who can provide a creative presence from deeper areas, by providing competition for Jonjo Shelvey. When Shelvey is not in the side, Newcastle seem to lack a creative midfielder, as Sean Lonsgtaff works hard and can be impressive going forward, but is also still young so has areas of his game that require improvement. Isaac Hayden is the team’s main defensive minded midfielder and has been very impressive ever since he joined the club in 2016 and it seems more than likely that he will partner whoever is selected to provide a more attacking impotus from central midfield. 

Therefore, a creative central midfield player who can play in a two man midfield and provide competition for the likes of Shelvey and Sean Longstaff, or add an extra attacking dimension from the centre of the park, could be a productive addition to the side.

The Targets

Option One: Imrân Louza

  • Nationality: French / Moroccan
  • Age: 21
  • Date of birth: 01/05/1999
  • Current Club: FC Nantes
  • Career: FC Nantes
  • Position: Centre Midfield
  • Secondary Position: Defensive Midfield / Attacking Midfield / Left Midfield
  • Preferred foot: Left
  • Contract Ends: 30/06/2024 (Summer 2024)
  • Estimated Cost:£10 000 000 – £14 000 000

Imrân Louza is a very exciting young talent who likely has a very bright future ahead of him, and we have written a detailed report on him that you can read here.

Louza would be an intelligent acquisition by Newcastle United for many reasons. He is only 21 and has a long career ahead of him during which he will be able to improve the areas of his game that may require it, whilst he also has the ability to have an immediate impact on the team and add creativity and composure to the midfield. Furthermore, due to French football’s recent turmoil, (as with many players in this series), this may be an ideal time to try and poach the midfielder and bring him to Tyneside for a cut price. FC Nantes also find themslevs in the middle of a crisis, with huge disconnects between the owner and fans, with the latest conflict coming over a questionable managerial appointment (not too dissimilar to Newcastle in some respects!). 

Louza has already shown leadership qualities at both senior and youth level with Nantes, quickly becoming one of the side’s key performers and displaying real pedigree in possession. The midfielder would be a calming influence in the centre of the park, utilising his impressive passing range and close control to dictate the tempo of the game. Despite not quite possessing Shelvey’s passing range, Louza does bring creativity to the midfield whilst also providing a bit more energy, and often likes to operate slightly higher up the pitch compared to the areas which Shelvey often occupies. 

Louza is not the fastest or most physically impressive, but his ability on the ball and weighting of pass make him a threat, whilst he is also a competent set piece taker should he be called upon. The 21 year old is happy to carry the ball into space but doesn’t often look to take on opponnets in midfield areas, only really risking dribbling in the final third. He is always looking to play a forward pass and put his team on the front foot, and has demonstrated the ability to slide strikers in down the channels with well weighted through balls, something that would really suit Callum Wilson’s game ahead of him. 

Defensively, as mentioned earlier Louza is not the most physical, but is capable of holding his own and is positionally adequate. He sometimes needs to show a bit more awareness to track the run of his opposite number, but overall he shows decent intensity and aggression and is not a passenger when defending, helping his team out from midfield. At Nantes he is often paired with a more defensive minded partner in order to add a bit of balance, and this is when he is most effective. He is effective on the ball in deeper areas, but plays with more freedom when not carrying too heavy a defensive burden. His leadership qualities and willingness to work hard for the team are important here and allow him to play in a two man midfield partnership. 

If signed, it is likely that Louza would be deployed alongside Isaac Hayden in midfield, and this partnership would suit both players very well. Louza would be granted the freedom to add creativity and composure in central areas, and could venture forward to join the attack, whilst Hayden would take the lead in defensive situations and provide cover for Louza when attacking, not being forced into trying to make ambitious passes which is possibly the weakest part of his game. 

Nantes have often lined up in a 4-2-3-1 over the last couple of seasons, and the 21 year old has been deployed in several different areas of the pitch, though primarily in the midfield two. Nantes also tend to play a counter attacking style of football and can spend long periods of time out of possession, so Louza is capable of sitting in a block comfortably. All of these factors would help Louza to adapt to life at Newcastle should he join. 

Louza may be a slightly ambitious suggestion, but given the state of the French market and Newcastle’s need for a creative midfielder, the Tyneside club could do a lot worse than targeting the Nantes playmaker. 

Option Two: Toma Bašić

  • Nationality: Croatian
  • Age: 24
  • Date of birth: 25/11/1996
  • Current Club: Girondins de Bordeaux
  • Career: Hajduk Split, Rudeš (L), Girondins de Bordeaux
  • Position: Centre Midfield
  • Secondary Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Preferred foot: Left
  • Contract Ends: 30/06/2022 (Summer 2022)
  • Estimated Cost: £8 000 000 – £12 000 000

A different type of player to Louza, Toma Bašić could also provide another dimension to the Newcastle midfield. Bašić is another player who we have a detailed player report on, and you can read it here. The 6’3 midfielder currenlty plies his trade for Girondins de Bordeaux in France’s Ligue 1, and has begun to raise a few eyebrows with his performances as he reaches the midway stage of his third season in South-West France. His performances have earnt him his first international cap for Croatia and he has recently been linked with a move away. 

Bašić is not your typical ‘playmaker’ from midfield like Shelvey and Louza, but is more of a physical presence who likes to drive with the ball, using his strength to ride challenges and launch attacks from midfield areas. His ability to drive with the ball and beat opponents would add a new dimension to a Newcastle midfield that currently lacks creativity and dynamism. 

The Croatian is also capable of threatening from range and possesses a powerful shot that can cause problems for keepers, and whilst his passing range isn’t the most impressive, he is capable of spreading the play and picking out teammates efficiently. By dribbling the ball, he often draws in defenders before looking to release a pass, however, he can also pose a threat from set pieces, whether it be from taking them (he often delivers corners for his current club), or from attacking them by using his height and frame to challenge aerially. 

The 6’3 Croatian has an average build and would be more than capable of physically competing in the Premier League. His height would allow him to have a positive impact on set pieces at both ends, whilst he can play as a more defensive minded player at the base of the midfield and has a good reading of the game to shift across and screen the defence. At Bordeaux he has often been deployed in the 2 of 4-2-3-1 and the 24 year old is able to effectively launch counter attacks from deep areas, which would prove very useful to Newcastle.

At Newcastle he would likely partner Isaac Hayden, but could also provide cover for the defensive midfielder if required. As mentioned earlier, Bašić provides a different threat from midfield compared to what Newcastle currently have and would likely be the better ball carrier out of any of the squad’s central midfielders. 

Bašić has become a more accomplished midfielder over the last couple of years and could now be ready to make the leap to the Premier League, and Newcastle could be a good place for him to do that. With French football’s financial difficulties, it seems likely that the Croatian will be on the move in one of the coming transfer windows, with interest said to be high in him across Europe. 

Option Three: Morgan Sanson

  • Nationality: French
  • Age: 26
  • Date of birth: 18/08/1994
  • Current Club: Olympique Marseille
  • Career: Le Mans, Montpellier HSC, Olympique Marseille
  • Position: Centre Midfield
  • Secondary Position: Defensive Midfield / Attacking Midfield
  • Preferred foot: Right
  • Contract Ends: 30/06/2022 (Summer 2022)
  • Estimated Cost: £15 000 000 – £20 000 000

Creative midfielder Morgan Sanson would be a more high profile signing by Newcastle United, and as a result the likelihood of a move materialising seems less, nonetheless if Sanson could be brought to Tyneside he could turn out to be an excellent addition to the midfield. The 26 year old has proven to be a consistent source of goals and creativity from midfield in Ligue 1, registering 66 goal contributions (35G / 31A) in 218 appearances in the French top flight so far in his career as I write this.

Currently plying his trade in Marseille, Sanson loves to run with the ball and take on opponents and as a result would provide that extra dimension to the Newcastle midfield, but he is also capable of picking out precise passes to teammates in dangerous areas and is comfortable operating in both deeper areas of the pitch and in the final third. Sanson possesses a low centre of gravity which allows him to wriggle past opponents, though he may need to improve upon his ball retention should he make the switch to Newcastle, due to the low possession style of play that they utilise. 

He would provide an extra goal threat for the club, with his ability to frequently find the back of the net from in and around the box, which is something that Newcastle could hugely benefit from. There are parts of Sanson’s game that are reminiscent of Yohan Cabaye during his time on Tyneside, and if he could in any way replicate the impact that Cabaye had, he would be a huge hit with the Magpies. 

There may lie some problems with the defensive areas of Sanson’s game. He is primarily an attacking player who is most effective when his team is in possession, and as a result he may struggle to adapt to Newcastle’s defensive style. He can read the game well to pick off passes and times his press well when closing down opposition players, but his tackling and strength could be areas that would be exposed in the Premier League. Though his intelligence to use his body effectively and win fouls would prove to be very useful for his side. Furthermore, there may be questions surrounding Sanson’s positional ability to consistently sit in a mid to low block as Newcastle often do.

Over the last couple of seasons, the Frenchman has primarily played in a midfield three, where he has had teammates able to cover for him and has been granted the freedom to join the attack, whilst he has also been deployed as a 10 at different stages throughout his career due to his creativity and lethal shooting from around the area. If partnered alongside Hayden, Sanson would be able to provide a large attacking influence whilst Hayden would do the dirty work defensively, and this could strike a nice balance in the centre of the park.

As mentioned previously, a deal for Sanson seems quite unlikely, but with the state of the French market and the player’s contract up in a year and a half, there may be the slightest possibility that Newcastle could sneak in and strike a deal to bring him to the North East of England. 

Other Possibilities:

Below is a list of other possible centre midfield targets based upon my own research and rumours linking players to the club. Some of these players have not been included in the main options due to the likelihood of the transfer occurring. (With some of these options being potentially too expensive or unlikely for other reasons.)

  • Valentin Rongier (Olympique Marseille / 26)
  • Benjamin Bourigeaud (Stade Rennes / 26)
  • Jean-Ricner Bellegarde (RC Strasbourg / 22)
  • Florian Grillitsch (1899 Hoffenheim / 25)
  • Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool / 30)
  • Boubakary Soumaré (Lille OSC / 21)

Closing Thoughts on the Series

Newcastle United are a club that has a huge amount of potential based upon the relative strength of the current squad, the large and loyal fan base, impressive stadium, long history and (although not always exciting) fairly stable financial situation. 

However, for around a decade now they have been in limbo, with there being a huge disconnect and area of conflict between the ownership and fans over many decisions taken since Mike Ashley took over the club. One of the latest in this list of indiscretions was the departure of Rafael Benitez and the appointment of Steve Bruce, who up to now has managed to retain Newcastle’s Premier League status, but has lost any support of the fans he once had and faces a big uphill battle to get them on side any time soon. 

Despite all the turbulence that has seemed to perpetually surround the club for a over decade now, it remains the job of the recruitment team to find deals that will improve the squad’s quality whilst also sticking to any financial restrictions imposed by the board. Based upon my research and observation, I believe that the players covered in this article would help the club to take a step in the right direction, at the very least on the pitch.

This concludes this recruitment analysis series on Newcastle United. Thank you very much for reading and we hope you found it interesting!

Stats used to conduct search courtesy of Fbref.


Thank you very much for taking the time to read part five of this ‘Recruitment Analysis’. I would be more than happy to discuss the suggestions I have put forward here, or hear any other suggestions people may have regarding Newcastle’s transfer options. Furthermore, I would be delighted to hear any feedback, positive or negative, on the piece itself and would be happy to discuss it in more detail with anyone who wishes to. You can contact me via Twitter here or via email at thomasmillman@yahoo.com. Thank you

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