How Matt Ritchie and Florian Lejeune's Newcastle United exit could help rebuild Steve Bruce's Premier League squad
Budgets are set to be tight at Newcastle United this summer – and Steve Bruce & Co are going to have to box clever in the summer window if they’re to make the improvements desired.
There has been some talk of sacrificing an Allan Saint-Maximin or another high profile star to finance a squad rebuild – but does it really have to be that way?
Here our writer Liam Kennedy takes a look at ways the Magpies can wring some cash out of this current crop, without trading off the crown jewels.
Matt Ritchie – the unwanted exchange
Anyone putting a squad together for next season would arguably have former Scotland international Ritchie in it.
But this situation is a little more complex than just wanting to keep a player to fill out a squad.
Ritchie is a player who wants to play football. He got frustrated with a lack of gametime when away with Scotland, so binned that off. His attitude to club football is no different.
He is used to playing football, not sitting on the bench. And for the first time in his career last season he wasn’t first choice in any position, even though he ended the campaign as such.
For that reason he is thought to be considering his future at United – and a move back to the south coast does appeal, with Bournemouth his likely destination, if January hurdles – Ritchie’s valuation and wages – can be overcome.
If Bournemouth still have the cash – they were beaten in the Championship play-offs – and still want Ritchie – the deal was all but done in January – then United could make a few quid by pressing the button.
One thing they do have is a ready-made, free transfer replacement ready to walk through the door in Jetro Willems, which would likely be completed if Ritchie remains intent on departing.
Although Willems would be welcomed back with open arms, and United do have a now more seasoned and experienced Jamal Lewis in reserve, concerns must be raised about the fact the Netherlands international has not played competitive football since he left United due to injury. And this also puts him at risk of falling foul of the new work permit rules, brought in after Brexit.
Freddie Woodman – the short-term fix
This is probably the deal that no one wants to strike – and if done, wreaks of short-termism.
Woodman has been earmarked as the Newcastle United No.1 for years to come, but he isn’t No.1 now and is unlikely to be even if he returns, due in no small part to Martin Dubravka.
So, does he go out on loan again or do Newcastle cash in with the likes of Arsenal an ever-present interested party?
It’s a move that could definitely raise some much-needed money this summer, but would ultimately be to the long-term detriment of the club.
I suspect this will be a decision that United will kick to the long grass again with another loan move.
This situation would definitely have been eased by Swansea City getting promoted to the Premier League, as Woodman would likely have remained and played in the top flight for a season before then likely returning to NUFC for a crack at the No.1 shirt with Dubravka.
It will be interesting to see what move materialises for Woodman, because another season in the Championship may feel like stagnation for a player undoubtedly itching to play in the top flight.
Dwight Gayle – the Championship gamble
Newcastle United have given Gayle a new deal, if reports are to be believed, and while he has acted as a back-up to Callum Wilson, his recent performances have hardly covered himself in glory.
This new deal scenario does have a positive spin, even if fans don’t see the logic. What it does do is protect an asset who was worth £20million three years ago.
If I were NUFC now, I’d be on the phone to West Brom and Fulham, both of whom wanted the player as recently as two years back. If United can recoup around £6-8million, a fair estimate and valuation, then that would be a welcome boost for the summer pot.
Florian Lejeune – the ‘stock is high’ departure
The Frenchman’s stock has probably never been as high – that, however, does not mean the door is likely to be ajar for a United return.
Having spent the last season, relatively knock free, Lejeune has proven he’s more than capable in La Liga with Alaves.
And with manager Bruce unlikely to welcome him back into the fold, an exit appears likely.
With only a year left on his current deal United won’t be able to recoup a whole lot of the £10.7million they shelled out for the defender, but they may be able to get a few million back, which can be spread out elsewhere, or used to fund a Kristoffer Ajer move.
Jeff Hendrick – the squad player switch up
Things haven’t worked out for Irishman Hendrick on Tyneside.
That goal at West Ham on the opening day was as good as it got for Hendrick really in 2020/21.
Even though his workrate can’t be doubted and fitness is up there with the best in the squad, he added very little to the United group.
And with that in mind, you have to wonder where he fits in moving forward.
He was in demand last summer, linked with the likes of AC Milan and Sean Dyche was keen to keep him, so it will be interesting to see what the future holds.