Football Features

Challenge Chelsea? 12 smarter options for Newcastle than Coutinho this January transfer window

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 13:32, 4 January 2022 | Updated: 21:20, 6 January 2022

Newcastle United are still being linked with a move for Barcelona giga-flop Philippe Coutinho.

Rumours first started to swirl when word of a Newcastle takeover emerged and, since its confirmation, the Catalan press have gone in hard. To be fair you can see why: Coutinho brings with him trophies, stature and star power.

What he doesn’t bring, of course, is good football. The Brazilian has been a shadow of himself pretty much after that first half-season with Barcelona back in 2018. He had flashes as a super sub in that treble-winning Bayern team in 2020, but has shown almost nothing since.

Every time he plays now, it’s not a question of how well he’ll perform but which random La Masia graduate will outperform him. Marketing-wise his signing would present a coup for Newcastle, but they need to focus on being a football club and he wouldn’t help there.

So who would help there, then? Newcastle are said to be targeting at least four signings this window.

We’ve had a look and identified six key positions Newcastle need to strengthen and 12 players who could help fill those roles and save the Magpies from relegation this season, allowing Eddie Howe’s project to begin in earnest this summer.


Kieran Trippier

With the greatest of respect to Javier Manquillo, Newcastle need a right-back. So much so, they have already launched a bid to sign Kieran Trippier from Atlético Madrid. The English defender has fallen down the pecking order under Diego Simeone and is seeking an exit.

This move seems entirely logical. Trippier is a proven Premier League calibre talent with intense creative prowess. His crosses are a fantastic supplier of chances, especially from set pieces as who can forget the 24 chances he created at the 2018 World Cup – more than any other player. Should the Magpies be able to work a deal, then he will drastically improve the side.

This wouldn’t be the first time Howe has signed Trippier, either. He took him on loan at Burnley in 2011 before making him a permanent signing the following January. According the Mirror, he tried to sign him at Bournemouth, too.

For his part, Atlético Madrid manager Diego Simeone said: “Trippier now has to decide if he wants to leave or not. We’ll move after his decision.”

Which puts the ball in Trippier’s court, making it more likely a deal can be concluded.

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Lucas Digne

Jamal Lewis is a decent left-back, but Newcastle need better than decent. Luckily for them Lucas Digne has inexplicably fallen out with Rafa Benitez at Everton and is available to sign in January, also being linked with Chelsea.

Since Digne joined Everton, Trent Alexander-Arnold (267) is the only defender who has created more chances than his 211. He’s a phenomenal engine of creativity and if the price is really as low as £25m this move would be a no-brainer for the Magpies.


James Tarkowski, Sven Botman, Samuel Umtiti

Centre-back is by far the biggest area of concern for Newcastle. Fabian Schar is alright but injury-prone and every other defender is Championship-standard. It’s abysmal and they need quality players to add.

Newcastle have been linked with a move for Samuel Umtiti from Barcelona, and while the Frenchman would instantly be the best defender in the North-East, that would still be a terrible move even at a cut-price £17m. Not because of his huge wages but the fact that he has been almost perpetually injured since refusing to have knee surgery after winning the 2018 World Cup. Steer clear.

James Tarkowski, however, would make oceans of sense. A Premier League-proven centre-back, tough as nails and able to play in a rearguard. He has made more clearances (665) and won more aerial duels (603) than any other player in the Premier League since the start of the 2018/19 season. His contract expires at the end of the season so a fair bid should see Burnley accept. Especially as Burnley chairman Alan Pace said: “we will support him any way that he would like, whether he wants to stay or go.”

Finally, because Umtiti would be silly and they need a second centre-back, Newcastle should move for Lille defender Sven Botman. He’s rated at £30m which is a great price for a physically imposing defender who has been mentored by Jose Fonte (just like two guys called Virgil van Dijk and Ruben Dias). If Newcastle could pair him and Tarkowski, they’d have a really solid centre-back duo.

Attacking Midfield

Georginio Wijnaldum, Jesse Lingard

Now Joelinton has been converted, Newcastle have some decent midfielders. However, none of them really offer much pop in attack. What Newcastle need to take pressure off their forwards are goalscoring midfielders.

Enter Jesse Lingard. The Manchester United man scored nine goals and got four assists in just 16 games on loan at West Ham last season at an average of a goal involvement every 110 minutes. There’s no reason to think that if placed into a vibrant, counter-attacking Newcastle side he couldn’t replicate that magic.

Then there’s a shock move for Georginio Wijnaldum. The Dutch midfielder has struggled since a summer move to PSG and, of course, he famously made his name in English football playing as an attacking midfielder for Newcastle – still being the only Magpies midfielder to score 10+ goals in a Premier League season (2015/16) – and has lost none of that edge as seen by his displays with the Netherlands.

“We know Newcastle are on the hunt,” Paddy Kenny told Football Insider. “I would suspect a call has gone in. Everyone knows [Wijnaldum is] available.”


Ousmane Dembélé, Adama Traoré

Newcastle don’t need wingers, necessarily, but given Miguel Almiron is a hit-and-miss talent, Ryan Fraser isn’t as consistent as he was in his Bournemouth days and the magical Allan Saint-Maximin is injury-prone, it wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.

The best winger on the transfer market right now is easily Ousmane Dembélé. The magical Barcelona man is on the outs at Camp Nou after his agents demanded astronomical figures from the cash-strapped Catalans. However, this opens up the chance for him to leave and word is the Magpies have already offered him a “monster” deal to join in the summer. However, for a small fee they could surely convince the Blaugrana to sell the wantaway wonder now.

No one across Europe’s top five leagues completed more dribbles in 2021 than Adama Traoré’s ridiculous 180 (Saint-Maximin was his closest challenger on 146). He is a magical dribbler but has lost his untouchable status at Wolves under new manager Bruno Lage and rumour is that Newcastle could sign him. Imagine having Adama and Saint Max in the same team? It would be hell for opposing full-backs!


Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ben Brereton Diaz, Moussa Dembélé

Callum Wilson is a fabulous striker but he’s Newcastle’s only genuine option in attack. Joelinton is a midfielder now and Dwight Gayle is a remnant from the club’s Championship days. They need another striker, whether that’s an upgrade, partner or back-up.

Luckily then, they’ve been linked with a few. First there’s Chilean superstar Ben Brereton Diaz. They’ve been linked with the Blackburn striker and although Tony Mowbray has said they’re not looking to sell their star man, could he say no to Newcastle’s money?

Then there’s Moussa Dembélé, the former Celtic striker back at Lyon after a failed attempt to make it at Atlético Madrid. He’s always proven to be a consistent goalscorer at every other club he’s played for, mind you, and could be a tremendous presence for the Magpies.

Finally there is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The recently-deposed Arsenal captain is a magnificent goalscorer when in form and, while it seems like his time in North London has come to an end, Newcastle have allegedly offered a loan-to-buy deal to rescue the Gabonese forward from returning to the Emirates after the Africa Cup of Nations.

Aubameyang is obviously not in his peak form, and at 32 would definitely be a short-term purchase, but he has incredible potential to give Newcastle an instant jolt of goalscoring and help get their project off the ground.