Ashley can kick-start exciting Newcastle era with “fast” 6 ft gem tipped for greatness – opinion

Ashley can kick-start exciting Newcastle era with “fast” 6 ft gem tipped for greatness – opinion

Mike Ashley faces a tough decision at Newcastle United after reports claimed SL Benfica are willing to listen to offers for Nuno Tavares.

What’s the word?

According to O Jogo, Benfica may look to cash in on Tavares and Grimaldo at the end of the season after identifying Ruben Vinagre as a potential replacement.

Newcastle and Burnley are believed to be eyeing summer swoops for Tavares, but could face a rival approach from Serie A heavyweight SSC Napoli.

The Toon and Clarets also face paying a whopping €30m (£27m) to sign Tavares, yet Benfica’s stance has weakened with SAD now open to offers.

Tavares and Grimaldo could soon leave the Estadio Sport Lisboa e Benfica as Aguias boss Jorge Jesus has given his blessing to a pursuit of Wolverhampton Wanderers’ left-back Vinagre.

Jesus believes the 21-year-old has qualities that will increase the competitiveness of his squad, while supporters have deemed the young defender to be a priority target after a below-par title challenge.

Benfica intend to pursue a deal for Vinagre at the end of the season as the Liga NOS giants feel they can sign him for less than €10m (£8.5m), having joined Wolves for close to €2m (£1.75m) in 2018 but only started 14 of 35 Premier League appearances.

Vinagre joined Portuguese side FC Famalicao on loan this January and has started all 13 available top-flight fixtures to date, while being named in one of SofaScore’s Team of the Weeks and registered his first assist last Sunday.

Should Newcastle sign Benfica’s Tavares?

Reports surfacing in Portugal that Benfica are willing to listen to offers for Tavares will leave Ashley facing a big question this summer, as the Newcastle owner is not expected to make funds available to strengthen Steve Bruce’s squad.

A fee of around £27m would no doubt be considered too much for the Magpies to pay for Tavares, as the £4,900-per-week full-back has only started 12 of his 21 appearances across all competitions this season for a combined 1,097 minutes on the field.

But Newcastle have held a long-standing interest in the 21-year-old, with previous reports by O Jogo claiming that United lodged a €15m (£13m) bid back in 2019 and have clearly not been discouraged by his reduced game time.

The St. James’ Park natives are also thought to be in the market for a new left-back in the next transfer window, with The Shields Gazette noting recently that club chiefs are searching for competition for Jamal Lewis with Matt Ritchie expected to be sold.

It obviously remains to be seen how low Benfica are willing to reduce their asking price, but a fee closer to what the Toon bid two summers ago could be enough to see Ashley consider dipping into his pocket providing he is funding transfers for a Premier League side.

Doing so may also see Newcastle land an exciting upgrade on Lewis, who has lost his place in Bruce’s squad following a £15m transfer from Norwich City last year – having been left an unused substitute in United’s last four Premier League games.

Tavares carries possession out from the back 59.3 times per 90 minutes in the Liga NOS this season, far more often than Lewis (27.4) has in the Premier League. He also covers a higher progressive distance away from his goal (207 to 67.6 yards) and ventures into the final third for 24.4 touches to 11.8, per FBref.

The 6 foot Tavares is additionally willing to put his body on the line more often with 2.22 blocks to Lewis’ 1.72 and applies pressure outside the defensive third 11.11 times per 90 to 7.53.

Much will depend on Benfica’s asking price, but the Liga NOS giants considering offers will be a big boost to Newcastle in the race for his signature even if Ashley faces a tough call over funding a move.

But with football agent Cesar Boaventura hailing Tavares as “fast” and someone who could be “one of the best in Europe”, Ashley can kick-start an exciting new era at Newcastle by landing the 21-year-old starlet this summer.

AND in other news, Newcastle could offer a new contract to a player Steve Bruce has never spoken to