Japanese striker Yoshinori Muto is headed to Tyneside after Newcastle and Mainz agreed to a £9.5 million fee. The deal is pending a work permit.
Muto becomes the second signing announced Thursday following Swiss defender Fabian Schar joining from Deportivo.
With Aleksander Mitrovic heavily linked to a move away from the side, specifically to Fulham, Newcastle needed to find a replacement. Muto scored 20 goals in 66 Bundesliga appearances, including 8 this past season. He also had 10 assists during his tenure.
Rafa Benitez continues to demonstrate his ability to improve the side without massive spending. Muto isn’t cheap, but he is a quality player. At 26 years old, Newcastle will likely be getting him for the rest of his prime as well.
While Muto is far from a commanding presence in the box standing at 1.78m, he has shown the ability to find some separation in the box.
It is interesting to see Newcastle so interested in the striker after he made just one appearance for Japan at the World Cup and failed to score during qualifying. His value comes solely from his production at the domestic level.
Perhaps this move is more shrewd than it appears on the surface. During the summer following a World Cup, the valuation for players who performed well skyrockets. Muto does not fall into that category. He is still a quality player, but the buzz and competition to sign him does not exist as World Cup heroes dominate the headlines. In other summers, Muto would likely have more suitors.
Muto will compete for a spot up top alongside Ayoze Perez, Dwight Gayle, Joselu and potentially Adam Armstrong, if the youngster can do enough to convince Benitez he should stay with the club rather than go out on loan again.
After finishing mid-table last year, this move is one to prevent Newcastle from dropping lower in the table, rather than pushing it higher. As long as Mike Ashley continues to run the club with such a tight transfer budget, Benitez will have to be creative in how he improves the team or brings in fresh blood.