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Lingard at 10 & Bale over Hazard: Newcastle fantasy XI compiled by club legend Rob Lee

09:00 GMT 11/12/2021
Gareth Bale Jesse Lingard Eden Hazard
With the Magpies expected to spend big during the January window, former midfielder Rob Lee casts an eye over some of the potential targets

Roughly 3,476,532 players have been linked with a move to Newcastle United since a £300 million ($399m) takeover by a Saudi-led consortium was completed at St James’ Park in October, with the expectation being that the Magpies will look to spend big in January.

Attempting to sort the probable and possible from the speculative and silly has become a rather thankless task on Tyneside, with an excited fan base waiting to discover whether there really is any substance to the endless rounds of rumours.

With so much gossip to wade through, GOAL caught up with former midfielder Rob Lee – who was speaking in association with Coffee Friend – to piece together a fantasy XI that could take to the field once the next window has slammed shut and if money really does prove to be no object for new owners in the North East.

Here is what a club legend had to say…

GOALKEEPER

Players linked: Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona), Dean Henderson (Manchester United)

Selection: “[Martin] Dubravka has come back from injury, before that he was exceptional. Is it essential to change the goalkeeper at this moment in time? I don’t think so. If you want to change him, then maybe it will be the summer transfer window.

"I think Dubravka is a good goalkeeper. He’s made a couple of mistakes recently, but he’s been out a long time. Before that he was an exceptional keeper, and still is. I wouldn’t change him at the minute.”

Would it be worth taking Henderson on loan?

“It depends if I want to waste all my loans up, because you can only have a certain amount. I don’t think it’s essential, and he’s not an essential player that we need at the moment. In terms of a keeper, that’s the last place that I would look to strengthen, but Henderson would be one I would look at.”

RIGHT-BACK

Players linked: Kieran Trippier (Atletico Madrid), Max Aarons (Norwich City)

Selection: “Trippier I’d love, I think he’d be great. I think he would be very good and you could probably get him as well. I think he’d come and he’d get the area, get the people. Max Aarons? I think so. James Justin as well I would chuck in. He was at Luton with my lads and could play left or right. Whether you’d get him out of Leicester or not, I’m not sure. Before he got injured, I think he was on the verge of an England call up – at left-back or right-back, he’s that good. Trippier would be my first choice, if I could get him straight away, and then maybe later on go for Aarons or James Justin to back him up.

Is Trippier the best choice because he’s a northern lad?

“Exactly. It’s alright chucking money at players, but you want to get players that know Newcastle and the Premier League. He would fit that category. He would know how big Newcastle are, know the area, and I think he’d love playing for Newcastle. The fans would love him.”

LEFT-BACK

Players linked: Oleksandr Zinchenko (Manchester City), Nathan Ake (Manchester City)

Selection: “Ake I would try and get. Eddie took him to Bournemouth so it wouldn’t surprise me if we went for him. He’s quick, not the biggest as a centre-back but can play, defend. It wouldn’t surprise me. If Man City wanted to get rid of him, I can see Eddie Howe trying to get him. He can play in a three at centre-half, he can play left-back. He’s versatile. I’ve watched him since he was a kid at Chelsea and he’s a very good player. I was surprised when he went to Man City. To be honest, I thought that wasn’t a great move for him, but I suppose money talks and winning championships talks. He’s one that I think is possible and I would try to get him.”

CENTRE-BACKS

Players linked: Conor Coady (Wolves), James Tarkowski (Burnley), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli), Clement Lenglet (Barcelona)

Selection: “Coady I really like. He’s an organiser, I like him. He’s a Scouser so he’d get the club and what it is. Tarkowski, I saw him on Saturday [in a 1-0 defeat to Newcastle] and he didn’t play great. He’s just come back from a suspension, but those two are both in England squads and know the Premier League. They are players that I would definitely try and get. Tarkowski’s contract is up at the end of the season so you’re probably more likely to get him, but unless you go in for Coady then you never know. I think these are feasible and would fit in.”

Is there a role for current club captain Jamaal Lascelles?

“On current form, probably not. I’m not saying he’s a bad player but I don’t think he’s played well. He did well on Saturday but a few games before he hasn’t. I think he has to improve. Maybe it’s because he has no competition – if he’s fit, he plays. If you have got Coady there and Tarkowski there, he might not play. Up your game or off you go. I don’t see Lascelles being the leader you would want. Coady, you see him at Wolves and he would be my sort of captain.”

MIDFIELDERS

Players linked: Axel Witsel (Borussia Dortmund), Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Dele Alli (Tottenham), Aaron Ramsey (Juventus), Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona), Ross Barkley (Chelsea), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United)

Selection: “I think technically [Jonjo] Shelvey is very good. It’s whether you can get him to run around and press like he has to do. Eddie wants to press and you have to have legs in there. Shelvey, I think I’d keep him in there. He does stupid things, that would worry me a little bit. When you are talking about the best in that position – Declan Rice at West Ham and N’Golo Kante at Chelsea, they are the best. I think Rice has gone beyond Kante now as the best in the Premier League, but there is no chance of getting him. It would be how Shelvey plays. Technically, passing-wise, he’s as good anybody, I just worry about his mobility and getting around.

“I’d then try and get Jesse Lingard. He did brilliantly at West Ham and will be out of contract. He costs you £10m, probably, for a £40-50m player. You have to pay him good wages, but again I think the fans will love him. He’s got energy, gets up and down, scores goals and the only person that scores goals at the moment for us is Callum Wilson. If he gets injured, we are in serious trouble.”

Is Wales international Ramsey worth a shout?

“If he’s fit, he’s as good as there is. I’d even chuck Gareth Bale in. I don’t think he got the praise he should have done at Tottenham. If you look at the number of games he started under [Jose] Mourinho and the goals he scored, he was as good as anything. On his day, he’s still unplayable. Those two, if you can get them both and keep them fit, then I would do it all day long. It would cost you big money in wages, but it won’t cost you so much to get them. Ramsey, I think you’d get him. Juve want him out. Bale, they have been trying to get rid of him for so long, so it’s possible. It’s making sure they want to come to Newcastle, that they are up for the battle. It’s okay having all this money but you have to spend it wisely and get the right players.”

What about Coutinho and Barkley, who both have Premier League experience?

“Coutinho I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t go near him. I don’t think he’s done great since he left Liverpool and he was in a very good Liverpool side. I think that money for him was a lot, in my opinion. Barkley? Again, if you can get him playing how he can do than maybe, but he doesn’t really play. He looks like one of those players where when you don’t play him he gets lethargic, puts on weight. You have to play him. He has to play for a manager and get his head down and work hard. The off-field stuff has to stop and he has to concentrate on his football. But on his day he is a top player.”

WINGERS

Players linked: Gareth Bale (Real Madrid), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Eden Hazard (Real Madrid), Ismaila Sarr (Watford)

Selection: "[Allan Saint-Maximin] is exciting. I like him. He’s not as good as [David] Ginola, but that sort of thing. He gets people excited, but he has to be consistent. Some weeks he carries the team on his own but he doesn’t score enough for me, he doesn’t create enough for what he is. He has to improve on that but I’d definitely keep him in.”

Is Bale being favoured over Hazard?

“All day long. Hazard I wouldn’t touch. He’s playing for the best team in Spain and I think he’s been dreadful for the money they paid for him. He plays for one of the best national teams on paper in Belgium, and he hasn’t been great for them either. He was fantastic at Chelsea but seems to be one of those players that has gone to Real Madrid, got a massive contract and looks like football isn’t a priority. I might be wrong. He looks like he isn’t bothered. I wouldn’t pay him big money to come to Newcastle.”

What about Dembele, he’s a World Cup winner and running down his contract at Barcelona?

“I know a lot of World Cup winners that aren’t great! We signed Stephane Guivarc’h, World Cup winner, and he wasn’t great for us and went to Rangers and wasn’t great. I don’t take too much into consideration what they’ve won and what they’ve done. I just look at a player that can do well. It’s just knowing players that you can keep fit, know the Premier League and can hit the ground running. You have got no pre-season, you have to get players that can go ‘bang’, by the time you arrive in January you will be playing in three or four days, and you have to play well.”

STRIKERS

Players linked: Divock Origi (Liverpool), Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton), Mauro Icardi (PSG), Timo Werner (Chelsea)

Selection: “I’d take Calvert-Lewin. He’s been injured quite a while and Everton have suffered while he’s been injured. I would take him all day. Wilson is our main striker, so can you play him with someone else or is Eddie going to play one up front? If he is, then it has to be someone who is content to play when Wilson is not fit, or wide. It’s a difficult situation, like the Spurs one with [Harry] Kane – they say they should get another striker, but if Kane is fit then he plays.

“Joelinton has been playing 10, can play wide. Everyone says he has improved, and he has, but he had to. Being brutally honest, for £40m he doesn’t score, he doesn’t create, he’s just working hard now, getting tackles in and is a big, strong lad. I think we need more than that.”

MANAGER

Why is Howe the right man for the job?

“He brought Bournemouth up from nowhere. He got them in the Premier League, which was virtually impossible. I think he is going to find it different being at Newcastle to being at Bournemouth or Burnley. This is a huge football club and the expectation is going to be huge. But he’s a good manager. Hopefully he will bring the right players in that he thinks will improve us. Only time will tell. There is huge pressure on him to do well with all this money and you hope he gets a say about who comes in.”

Is he a good fit because he wants to play attractive football?

“Because of how we played, the entertainers many years ago under Kevin Keegan, the fans expect that now, they expect exciting football. Even from Malcolm Macdonald through Gazza etc, they have always tried to play good football. They don’t mind you losing. It’s a myth that they are delusional about where they should be, they don’t mind losing. They want to see attractive football, good players pulling the shirt on and giving 100 per cent in every game. If they get that on a Saturday and they lose, they will be fine, it’s not an issue. If Newcastle went down, they would still get 52,000 people. What other team would do that? That’s what makes it such a fantastic club. If these players do well and once someone wins something at Newcastle they will be idolised forever and there will be statues all over the place!”

FANTASY XI