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Newcastle in the mix to sign Burnley’s defender James Tarkowski on a free

The defender won’t be playing Championship football next season... so why not do it at St James Park?

Newcastle United v Burnley - Premier League Photo by Peter Powell - Pool/Getty Images

Newcastle United is one of the final teams expected to offer a deal to Burnley’s central defender James Tarkowski, who will be available on a free once his current contract runs out in a few weeks.

While the first whispers regarding this potential interest from Newcastle in the soon-to-be 30 years old England international popped up a little over a week ago on 90min, the outlet is now reporting that Newcastle is, in fact, still interested in signing the free agent this summer. The updated report includes two other potential suitors, 8th-place Leicester and 16th-place Everton.

There is no sugarcoating the fact that Burnley, all things considered, is now a Championship team. That’s not bad luck. That’s not a missed penalty, a misfired shot off a cross, or a slip allowing your opponent to score. That’s more steady, continues, incompetent malpractice from everybody involved in a team, and the combination of it all showing up when all 38 matches comprising a team’s Premier League season are in the books. That said, it’s not that relegated teams can’t provide more than useful players to top-tier clubs, as a wide variety of examples are often found on a yearly basis.

This version of Tarkowski might not be his 2020 self, when he peaked in value (per Transfermarkt) at €28M in October of that year, but he’s still tagged at €22M. That has Tarkowski tied for the 20th-highest valuation for center-backs aged between 23 and 30 doing it in the Premier League this season, higher than any CB currently linked to Newcastle, tied with Everton’s Michael Keane (rumored to be available), and only behind one Leciester central defender (Caglar Soyuncu).

If anything can be extracted from this, it is clear that Tarkowski does not belong to the second tier of English football, and thus he won’t be re-inking another deal with Burnley. Instead, he’ll leave the door open for external suitors to offer him a new deal to play elsewhere.

It is widely known that Newcastle will try to bolster the center of the defensive line this summer, and doing so for the sweet price of nothing (other than the wages, obviously) would be a massive win for a club in United’s position—loads and loads of cash, but always in fear of breaking the Financial Fair Play limitations if they spend over the bar set up by UEFA. That’s why this type of deal—along with loans with future sell-on clauses in place—is an absolute must for the club to grow organically but quickly and make a strong push for European football as soon as next year.

FBL-ENG-PR-WATFORD-BURNLEY Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images

Burnley only paid €4M for Tarkowski’s services back in 2016 but his growth since moving to Turf Moor has been pretty nice. So much so, that Tarkowski got a couple of international caps eventually and can consider himself a Three Lions man after debuting with England in late March 2018.

Tarkowski has appeared in 35 Premier League for Burnley this season scoring one goal and assisting on two more. His negatives (low ranks on pass attempts and completion percentages) would obviously be nullified by the fact that he’ll join Newcastle for free and without a sky-high weekly salary if he decides to take the Magpies deal.

While Tarkowski’s calling card is not passing, that is surely impacted by Burnley’s style of play and a mediocre squad of Championship-bound players. Throw Tarkowski in a defensive line with the likes of Trippier and Targett flanking him, along with a couple of do-it-all classy midfielders such as Bruno and Joelinton, and all of a sudden you can start depicting him being willing to share the ball in short touches and completing tens and tens of passes.

When things look ugly and defensive prowess is needed, though, not many players can say they’re leveled with the English capped defender. He ranked in the top quartile in tackles this season among players at his position and finished in the 97th or higher percentile in all blocks, clearances, and aerial duels won in the Premier League on top of that.

Tarkowski is as strong and durable as an ox, having played at least 3,000 minutes four seasons in a row and 2,700+ in the past five. He’s been part of 31 games in all five last seasons with Burnley, a span of time in which he scored seven goals and got five assists to go with them. Tarkowski shouldn’t command more than around €140,000 in weekly wages, which would sandwich him between Emil Krafth and Jonjo Shelvey and outside of the top-5 current earners.

Even though the new owners have been around for mere months, there is precedence already of them doing business with Burnley-related players after the acquisition of forward Chris Wood last January. While Leicester could turn into a proper rival for Tarkowski’s signature, Everton is clearly not going to pose much trouble for the other two powerhouses. We’ll see how things develop, but with the season already over for English sides outside of Liverpool this situation should be resolved sooner rather than later.