There is a certain pressure that comes with being the Newcastle United No.9. Several strikers have thrived under it – such as Alan Shearer – many others have failed to live up to expectation.
Salomón Rondón was handed the shirt last summer after he joined on loan from West Bromwich Albion. The Venezuelan had never been prolific at the Hawthorns but Rafael Benítez needed a powerful frontman to lead his side.
Rondón was viewed as a quick and affordable fix. Yet he has been so much more than that for the Magpies this season. The 29-year-old has struck nine times in the Premier League and claimed a further five assists; he has been involved in 45 per cent of Newcastle’s goals in the league this term.
“He’s doing well for us and he knows that the main thing he has to do is just to keep scoring goals and try to help the team,” Benítez said last month.
“Sometimes he can do that by scoring goals, sometimes it’s just by pressing the defenders, or holding the ball up, or linking with other players, things like that. I think he knows what we need from him, and he must keep doing that.”
It’s unsurprising that Benítez wants to make Rondón’s loan move permanent this summer. The loan deal that took him to the North East reportedly contains a £16.5million option, a moderate fee for the majority of English top-flight sides.
Yet the Newcastle hierarchy are hesitant. Given his age Rondón would have little resale value which is why, according to reports, the club are unwilling to pay more than £12million for the top scorer this summer.
Dwight Gayle and Jacob Murphy are currently on loan at West Brom and could be factored into a deal. Yet both would command fees in excess of £10million if sold and are unlikely to be viewed as mere collateral by Newcastle owner Mike Ashley.
If a deal for Rondón can’t be struck this summer, Newcastle will have to look elsewhere. The club proved with the £20million signing of Miguel Almirón in January that, for the right player, money will be spent.
We have put together a list of five strikers the Magpies could target when the 2018/19 season comes to an end. Some would be cost-friendly, others would require Ashley to invest.
We’ll start with a potential free transfer, though.
The former Manchester City striker has spent the last three-and-a-half seasons in Serie A with Roma and, after a shaky first campaign, has proven a consistent goalscorer.
I Giallorossi have struggled this term, though, and that has affected Džeko’s form; he has struck just seven times in his 24 league appearances. And this summer Roma plan to overhaul their squad and will favour younger Italian talents – Cagliari’s Nicolò Barella and Brescia’s Sandro Tonali have both been linked.
Džeko is viewed as expendable by the club and could be allowed to leave the Stadio Olimpico for nothing. There is Premier League interest in the shape of West Ham United and Everton while Inter are also an interested suitor.
At 32 years old, the Bosnia international wouldn’t be a long-term option for Benítez – assuming the Spaniard signs a new contract – but he could be a very effective one.
Džeko has a similar profile to Rondón but has superior technique. He doesn’t win as many aerial duels per 90 (4.19 to the Newcastle striker’s 5.29) but players more open-play key passes per 90 (1.32 to 0.95) and completes more dribbles per 90 (1.32 to 0.62).
Of course, these stats are influenced by each side’s stylistic traits yet Džeko is an excellent link man as well as a goal threat. The only stumbling block could be whether the Magpies are willing to match his wage demands, which are reportedly in excess of £100,000 a week.
The Brazilian has been linked with a move to St James’ Park from Hoffenheim since February and it’s easy to understand why.
Standing 6ft 1ins, Joelinton appears to have the physical profile of a powerful frontman. Yet the Brazilian is a dynamic attacker, one who can drift past opposition defenders with ease and create goalscoring opportunities for his teammates.
Comparisons to Roberto Firmino have been made, but that’s largely because both were brought to Germany in their teens from Brazil and were schooled Hoffenheim.
Yet there is the same creativity in Joelinton’s game to that of the Liverpool star. This season in the Bundesliga he has completed 2.12 dribbles per 90, the eighth-highest figure of any attacker, and is seventh for open-play key passes per 90 (1.5).
He does his defensive work, too. Only three players can better his interceptions attempted per 90 and tackles completed per 90. Add that to his eight goals in the Bundesliga and you have an excellent, well-rounded forward.
“To be honest, there is not one, there are not five, there are dozens of clubs that are interested in him,” Hoffenheim sporting director Alexander Rosen admitted in February. “We have developed great strength to be able to say no – which we have proven in the past times.”
Hoffenheim reportedly turned down £45million for the Brazilian from an unnamed Chinese Super League club in January and supposedly a bid of around £60million will be required to prise him away from the Bundesliga side this summer
It’s difficult to envisage Ashley signing off on such a figure but one strong campaign in the Premier League could see Joelinton’s value quickly rise. And that might be enough to convince the Magpies owner.
Newcastle fans will be familiar with the Icelandic striker who was first linked with a switch to St James’ Park way back in 2013. Yet a switch has, for one reason or another, never materialised. This summer might be the ideal opportunity to change that.
Now 30 years old, Finnbogason has proven a reliable scorer in the Bundesliga with Augsburg. He has struck ten goals in the German top flight this term and added two assists from just 17 appearances.
It’s an impressive record, even more so when you consider the club have won just three games since the start of December. Finnbogason has often been left isolated, chances are a premium. But when they do come his way, he is an excellent finisher.
Tellingly, only two Bundesliga strikers have scored more big chances per 90 than the Iceland international’s 0.64. He is also tenth for open-play key passes per 90 (1.35).
Finnbogason’s underlying numbers suggest in a better side, he’d be even more of a threat. Augsburg may yet be relegated this season – they sit four points above the relegation play-off spot at the time of writing – but this summer they are likely to sell their striker no matter what.
He has just one-year remaining on his contract and the German club can’t afford to lose their one valuable asset for nothing. Finnbogason is a different stylistically to Rondón, but he could match the Venezuelan’s impact on Tyneside.
The 24-year-old striker, who is on loan at La Liga strugglers Rayo Vallecano from Real Madrid, has been compared to Cristiano Ronaldo by the Portuguese superstar’s own agent, Jorge Mendes.
The story goes – excellently told by Phil Kitromilides on The Spanish Football Podcast – that during Real Madrid’s pre-season tour of the United States, De Tomás caught the eye of Mendes during a training session.
Olive skin and his hair slicked back, Mendes supposed giggled to himself, turned to Real Madrid delegates and said: “Mini-Cristiano…”
The comparison may not stretch too far beyond that but de Tomás has established himself as one of the most important strikers in La Liga. He has netted 14 goals for Rayo, over a third of their tally in the league, in 28 appearances.
The man known as R.D.T. – which is what he has on the back of his shirt – is an extremely proficient striker. Give him the ball in and around the penalty area and it’s likely he’ll get a shot away.
He has averaged 3.76 shots per 90 in La Liga this term, 1.63 of which hit the target. That last figure can only be bettered by two attackers in La Liga this season.
The threat de Tomás poses is also myriad. Of his 13 La Liga goals, four have been scored from outside of the penalty area, one of which was a free-kick, two have been scored with his head, and the remaining seven were all neat finishes from inside the penalty area.
De Tomás is not a like-for-like replacement for Rondón but his quality is undeniable. Real Madrid will reportedly assess the striker when he returns in the summer but, for the right price, they’re likely to sell to fund their lavish spending spree.
He would cost north of £15million but de Tomás is worth the outlay and would likely only improve under Benítez.
The 22-year-old striker has enjoyed a fine campaign with Birmingham City. He has struck 22 goals in 40 games and has also laid on four for his teammates. And yet the Midlands giants are just five points above the relegation zone in the Championship.
That is because the club were deducted nine points for breaching profitability and sustainability rules; Birmingham incurred losses of nearly £48.8m between 2015 and 2018.
It’s why the club are likely to sell Adams this summer. Countless Premier League sides have scouted the striker, one of which is supposedly Newcastle.
Adams is a well-rounded forward, one comfortable dropping deep to collect possession or breaking behind opposition defences.
That is likely to be because he has also been utilised out wide and as a second striker in his career but it makes him a threat in several areas of the pitch. He is also an effective dribbler and can play subtle passes that open up a defence.
He is not a Rondón clone but he could certainly replicate the 29-year-old’s influence on the Newcastle attack. Birmingham are set to demand around £20million for Adams, significantly more than it will take to keep Newcastle’s current No.9 at St James’.
However, a couple of strong campaigns in the Premier League would see Adams’ value quickly rise. And that would undoubtedly appeal to Ashley.