Monster news to kick the weekend off, folks!
90min is reporting what The Telegraph already touched on a few days ago: Hugo Ekitike might be closer than ever to signing with Newcastle—that is, if he’s not been sealed and delivered in the shadows already. Shocking, but most probably very real and exciting news around Tyneside.
Back in January, when the club was in the direst of moments this season, reinforcements were a must to avoid relegation at all costs. One of the targets back then was young phenom Hugo Ekitike, he of Reims playing on the French Ligue 1. Even though expected to be chased by behemoths—Juventus, Borussia Dortmund, and both Manchester teams, just to drop a few names—the truth is that Ekitike wasn’t that coveted a few months ago when teams in the tier of Newcastle and Brighton setting their sights on the French prospect.
Eddie Howe blessed the chasing of Ekitike in January, and he’d be as glad now as he would have been them if the Magpies end landing the striker. Negotiations got broken in January because the young player seemed to be interested in joining a bona fide Premier League team and not stuck in a relegation battle.
Reports back then spoke of a bid worth £25m being accepted by French side Reims back in January, with the player being the one rejecting to enter contract negotiations with Newcastle in case of an eventual relegation to the Championship at the end of this season. With that little concern now entirely off the board and Ekitike loving Howe’s appreciation of his game, this could realistically be the first transfer of the Toon preseason.
The consensus opinion has Ekitike leaving France for greener pastures this summer, whether that leads him to Tyneside or elsewhere. Given the pre-existent relationship between Newcastle and Stade Reims after that successful January engagement, though, it makes all of the sense for the deal to be completed once for all in the coming days or weeks, player-side included.
It is not clear whether the final operation would involve a loan-and-trade after a season, or if it’d be completed as a single signing with a fully paid fee from the get-go and the player making the move for good as soon as this summer leaving Reims’ books entirely. There is no way the Magpies enter next season with the pair of an underperforming Chris Wood and a banged-up Callum Wilson as their only two strikers, so Ekitike would be the one (or one of multiple players, we’ll see) added to that forward line.
Ekitike has played 22 Ligue 1 games for Reims this season scoring nine goals and providing a couple of assists. He’s outperformed his xG by three goals (9 to 6.0) while also performing above expectation on the assist front (2 to 1.3). On a per-90-minute basis, Ekitike has averaged 0.77 G+A (without factoring penalties into that mark).
You won’t believe this, but Ekitike ranks fourth in G+A-PK per 90 minutes with that 0.77 mark among Ligue 1 players only behind Kylian Mbappe, Moussa Dembele, and Lionel Messi and just ahead of Neymar. Ekitike has the fifth-best G90 mark (0.69) among all players, and the third-best removing penalty kicks (0.62).
Ekitike would become the third legit elite signing after the takeover took place last year, with Kieran Trippier and Bruno Guimaraes preceding him and poised to become Toon Legends sooner rather than later.