When this site spent time speculating on which players could be poached from relegation victims, it turned out we weren’t thinking quite far enough outside the box. Newcastle United are actively exploring a transfer move for Leganés midfielder Gabriel Pires, according to multiple sources. Pires has been linked with Newcastle for a number of months, with Rafa Benitez said to be an admirer of the Brazilian attacking playmaker.
Gabriel, 23, scored five goals and added two assists this season while successfully avoiding relegation in La Liga. Pires joined Leganés on a permanent basis in August after a season on loan from Juventus, scoring eight goals while leading the club to promotion from the Segunda Division for the first time in team history.
Gabriel is primarily used as a central attacking midfielder, though he also made appearance this past season as a striker, defensive midfielder, and left winger. Stylistically, Gabriel is a skilled dribbler and prefers to hold possession, rarely playing in risky passes over the top or through defenses. Gabriel has also shown impressive defensive responsibility for an attacking player. On the flip side, his passing success rate of 67% this season is well below what should be expected from a regular player, let alone a playmaker - the rate is worse than the success rate of any Newcastle player who played at all this season other than Daryl Murphy and the three goalkeepers.
If interested, Newcastle United would likely face competition from other Premier League clubs, as Everton and West Ham are also rumored to be interested in activating Gabriel’s £6 million release clause. Gabriel looks to at worst be effective depth and flexibility in the attacking third, which in the current transfer climate is well worth the price required.