Newcastle United have confirmed that they have signed 20 year-old fullback Davide Santon to a five year contract after agreeing on a fee in the £5 million range with Inter Milan. Santon has widely been considered one of the great right back prospects in the world for the last couple of years, but has recently found himself out of favor at Inter, being sent out on loan to perennial relegation favorite Cesena at the end of last season.
Santon has experience at the international level with Italy and in Serie A and the UEFA Champions League with Inter. He is equally capable of playing both right back and left back, and it seems that he will replace the departed Jose Enrique at left back (even taking his #3). Alan Pardew had this to say about his newest signing:
He is a quality left-back and an established international who also gives us flexibility in defence. Davide is a young lad and a great signing for us and I am sure he will adapt to the Premier League very quickly.
Follow the jump for some thoughts on Santon, plus some video and a poll.
At 20, Davide Santon should still be considered a world-class prospect. He is a right-footed fullback molded entirely in the modern mindset, willing to join the attack and possessing enough pace to recover defensively. He is quite strong in possession and has developed a reputation as a strong, precise tackler. If that reminds you of anybody, I don't believe that is a coincidence. He's probably just about as close to a true Jose Enrique replacement as you're likely to find, only he's younger and cheaper.
One shouldn't expect him to play Jose Enrique's role entirely, though. A good deal of JE's effectiveness was in his chemistry with Jonas Gutierrez, something that can only develop over time. Another key component was the trust his teammates had in him. For example, Fabricio Coloccini could afford to drift into the center and leave Jose Enrique alone on an island because he trusted him. Trust is not only an issue of time, but one of consistency. Santon is young and prone to inconsistency, which is what got him into trouble at Internazionale.
Davide has a high ceiling, and he also currently possesses enough ability to step into the Starting XI and make a vast improvement. That doesn't mean that he's going to be the savior. I don't want to rain on anybody's parade, but he will likely have a bad game or two. That doesn't mean that this isn't an awesome signing. £5 million is a pittance in today's football world, especially for a player whose career trajectory is still on the upward swing.
Because I promised it, here are a couple of Youtube videos showcasing Santon's ability. Judging a player on highlight videos is dangerous, but there's a lot to like here. Besides, one of the videos I've included shows all of his touches in his last game with Inter, which he entered as a substitute. (You can find more of the same if you poke around on that account.) It just so happens that he connected with a very decent-looking cross in that match. You may want to hit "mute" on this first one.
As for where he fits into Newcastle, I think he could excel at either wing back position, though Pardew seems to insinuate above that he'll be playing on the left. So, what do you do at right back? Before Jose Enrique was sold I was advocating for Ryan Taylor over Danny Simpson at that spot, and given Raylor's recent free kick success, I believe that such a move needs to be considered. Simpson is a capable attacker, but he doesn't do anything up front that Taylor can't do. When Taylor is on the right, where he is more comfortable, he is a better defender, in my opinion. What do you think?
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