Rafa Benitez has made it clear over the past week that getting a left back in the upcoming winter transfer window should be a priority for Newcastle and its board. Whether or not this will happen is definitely uncertain, especially considering Newcastle seem to be very interested in possibly breaking their transfer record for Miguel Almiron. Even if Newcastle manage to sign Almiron and have some left over funds, it likely won’t be a lot of money given the historically small transfer budget Rafa has been given. It is entirely possible that Newcastle repeat the winter transfer window of 2016 that saw them bring in Henri Saivet, Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend for a total of a little over £30million. But given the recent transfer record of Mike Ashley, and the special circumstances (an intense relegation battle) that led to a high spending winter window, it is unlikely to see Newcastle repeat the actions that led to them bringing two somewhat expensive (for Mike Ashley) players in January of 2016.
Ashley of course has recently claimed that he wants the club sold by January, but that proclamation has been met with skepticism because he’s been “close to selling the club” 6 times without any success. It is really uncertain at this point what Newcastle will do in January, and it is tough to think about the kind of budget Rafa may have.
Luckily for Rafa, I have done a little bit of scouting on my own and have a list of 5 (somewhat) affordable Left Backs Newcastle can Targett this upcoming window.
Nicolás Tagliafico, Ajax - Transfermarkt Value: £14.40m
Not going to lie, this one hurts. Tagliafico is an obvious target Newcastle should pursue, and they did pursue this summer after the conclusion of the World Cup. Their efforts to get the player to Newcastle ended once Mike Ashley deemed the Argentine international too expensive upon finding out the 26-year-old was going to cost £8million.
The Argentine Left Back has been a mainstay in the Argentinian national team under Jorge Sampaoli for the past year, making his debut last June and quickly becoming the starting Left Back for the Argentine team. While the Argentine squad was disappointing overall, Tagliafico remained impressive, consistently trying to get forward from his Left Back role and jump start an offense that was surprisingly stagnant.
Since the World Cup, the stock of the Ajax defender has steadily increased as he has impressed in both the Eredivisie and the UEFA Champions League racking up 3 goals and 5 assists in 21 appearances. There has been a particular focus on his Champions League play as he has 2 assists, and 2 goals via an impressive brace against AEK Athens during their Group E opening match while still providing good defensive cover.
His impressive play has garnered interest from Arsenal who have reportedly already submitted a bid for the Left Back, and consider Tagliafico a key part of their future plans. Interest from other teams and the general play of the Argentine is surely going to increase his price tag, if he is sold. Newcastle are likely kicking themselves after spending 18 months tracking Tagliafico and not purchasing him last January for less than £4million.
Matt Targett, Southampton - Transfermarkt Value: £6.3m
The namesake of this article, Matt Targett, is a young English Left Back at Southampton who has had a frustrating couple of seasons at St. Mary’s. Targett has not seen much of the field over the past couple of seasons at Southampton as Ryan Bertrand has been the first choice Left Back for Mark Hughes.
Targett was a transfer target of Newcastle in the summer of 2017 which ultimately led to a transfer saga that ultimately ended with Targett choosing not to come to Newcastle . Apparently he preferred a short term loan deal rather than a permanent or long term loan deal with Newcastle.
Targett eventually got his loan deal, spending the latter half of last season as a regular for Fulham where he was part of an impressive squad that gained promotion. Targett appeared in 21 matches for Fulham providing 1 goal and 2 assists for the club.
Unfortunately for Targett, his success in the Championship has not resulted in more opportunities with the first team. This season Targett has 3 league appearances, and 3 EFL cup appearances, solidifying his place as a bench player. It is fair to assume that Targett would want out of Southampton after another year of being the back up on a relegation battling team.
Newcastle will likely have to deal with a very stingy Southampton side, who wouldn’t let Targett go for £15m in the summer. It is possible that with the impending doom of relegation, and a new manager, that Southampton might be willing to part ways with the 23-year-old. Newcastle would have to purchase this player, as they don’t have any more domestic loan slots available.
The big concern for Newcastle should be whether or not another young prospect in English football is going to actually be a serviceable player in the Premier League. We have seen Newcastle have success with Deandre Yedlin, but have not seen Javier Manquillo pan out the way they wanted. Both were players who spent some time playing for a lower quality English team before signing with Newcastle.
Jesús Gallardo, Monterrey - Transfermarkt Value: £4.5m
Gallardo is the first intriguing name on this list, and truly a “hidden gem” in Liga MX. This idea of discovering young talent in places others aren’t looking is the approach Rafa should be taking. Clubs like Porto, PSV, and Real Betis have begun to do this with success often buying multiple national team players for relatively cheap.
As it pertains to the oddity of Gallardo it begins with the fact that he is from a region of the world that has not been poached by the premier league. There are not many Mexican or Central American players in the Premier League, with Javier Hernandez being the most popular and longest tenured player from that region. This a bit odd considering the success of El Tri, the Mexican national team, and the success of many of its players in other European leagues like Hirving “Chucky” Lozano of PSV , Jesus Corona of Porto, and Guillermo Ochoa of Standard Liege.
The other thing of note concerning Gallardo is that he actually is a winger that has made a role for himself with the Mexican National team by playing Left Back. Juan Carlos Osorio’s Mexican team was loaded at the winger position with the likes of Hirving Lozano, Jesus Corona, Carlos Vela, Javier Aquino, and Jurgen Damm all competing for these wing spots. Gallardo’s work rate and defensive capability led him to being a left back on a team that thrives from attacking on the counter. Gallardo’s ability as a winger has helped him jump start these attacks, and when needed he has been able to play as a wingback if Mexico shifts from their 4-3-3 to 3-4-3.
Unlike Kenedy, Gallardo has a decent track record playing as a true left back and would fit right in to Rafa’s system. The combined pace of him and Yedlin at the back would make Newcastle deadly attacking the ball, with the ability to track back and defend quickly.
Rafa admitted that the Left Back to be brought in would likely be an attacking minded player to compete against the more defensive minded Paul Dummett. Gallardo would be the perfect choice for this as the 24-year-old has been able to provide 19 goals and 11 assists in his 2 seasons playing top flight Mexican football.
The biggest worry for Newcastle would be getting Gallardo a work permit, something Newcastle struggled to do with Yoshinori Muto.
Gastón Silva, Independiente - Transfermarkt Value: £2.25m
Silva is a relatively unknown name to many as he plays his football in the Argentine first division with Club Atlético Independiente. The Argentine league has made the news recently for some pretty negative reasons surrounding its two best teams, but the league has produced such talents like Carlos Tevez, Paulo Dybala, Lionel Messi, Lautaro Martínez, and many other wonderful players.
The 24-year-old does have experience in Europe playing for Torino and Granada before a controversial transfer to Independiente that resulted in Mexican club Pumas paying for a player that never signed for them. He reportedly took less money to play at Independiente, and went with the Argentine club over the Mexican giants, who also happen to be the former club of another player on this list: Jesús Gallardo.
Silva has only appeared in 6 of Independiente’s matches this season due to a nagging muscle injury. This would put a wrinkle in Newcastle’s pursuits to sign him, but the hope would be that he is over this injury by the end of January as it was one he picked up earlier in the season.
Silva did travel to the World Cup with his native country Uruguay, who bolstered one of the best defenses of the tournament. The Left Back has made 19 appearances for his country, and he seemingly is going to be a big part of the future of the Uruguayan team as he was one of the younger defenders in the World Cup squad.
Silva is also a dual national, who also has citizenship in Italy, which makes the work permit process (for the time being) a lot easier than some of the other players on this list. Silva, in addition to Left Back, has also been used as a ball playing Left Center Back at Independiente and Granada. This of course makes him appear more defensive oriented, which is not the type of Left back Rafa wants to bring in, but he would be very cheap as all of his moves have cost less than £2million. He would be a decent Left Back to bring in as a last resort, especially if a lot of the targets Rafa is pursuing turn out to be too expensive.
Oscar Wendt, Borussia Mönchengladbach - Transfermarkt Value: £2.25m
Wendt is a signing you make as a last resort, as he is a 33-year-old Left Back currently playing in the Bundesliga. Wendt is definitely not a guy to anchor down the Left Back spot for the next 5-10 years, which makes him the opposite of the younger prospects that have already been discussed.
Wendt brings a lot of experience with him, having played in over 200 games for Mönchengladbach since he signed with them in 2011. Wendt couples this experience with his 28 caps for the Swedish National team, and 186 appearances with FC Copenhagen. Wendt is the type of experienced leader you could see Rafa bringing in as a last resort.
Wendt has the ability to play Left Back, Center Back, Right Back, as well as a Left or Right Midfielder. This makes him not only versatile, but also shows that he is capable of getting forward or anchoring down a defense. Versatility is something a team like Newcastle, who has almost no depth desperately needs. The lack of depth on this team is precisely why a lot of the players on this list can play multiple positions.
Wendt’s age may be a bit off putting, but if you need a guy to help close out the season Wendt would be that guy. Wendt also would likely be available for cheap, as his contract is expiring in the summer and Mönchengladbach is likely going to want to sell him for whatever they can get for him rather than let him walk away free. It seems natural that Wendt would want a shot at playing in the world’s toughest league, especially considering he’s been a mainstay in one of Europe’s toughest leagues and has played in some of the toughest international competitions. A new challenge is what Wendt needs, and the Premier League could provide him with that.
The harsh reality of the situation is that it is unlikely Newcastle even make a signing in January, especially given the most recent news from Mike Ashley’s mouth. There is always hope that the club actually can go out and improve, and every window we are left heartbroken. Monitor this space, as we here at Coming Home Newcastle will continue to bring unique stories like these, and report all the latest news surrounding Newcastle United.