According to the Chronicle Live, Newcastle United are extremely interested in bringing 23-year old Inter Milan midfielder Valentino Lazaro to St. James’ Park. The Austrian has struggled for regular game time at the San Siro despite only moving there from Hertha Berlin this summer, with only three starts in Serie A and 11 appearances in total. Ashley Young’s arrival may further dent his chances to feature as Antonio Conte looks for experienced heads to guide his team to the Serie A summit, and a move to England could work out well for both parties. With their draw against Lecce putting them four points behind Juventus, bookmakers have them at 7/2 to win the title after ten long years. Inter’s Romelu Lukaku is also third favourite to finish as the top goalscorer in Serie A, with odds of 12/1, but it looks unlikely that anyone will be able to catch Lazio’s Ciro Immobile – he is at 1/7 at the bookies to finish top of the pile. Fans can back Inter or any other Serie A teams with free bets without any deposit.
Lazaro made his name at boyhood club Red Bull Salzburg, impressing both domestically and in the Europa League to earn a move to Hertha Berlin in 2017. His versatility saw him play in a range of positions, from attacking midfielder to wing-back, and he notched five goals and 13 assists in 65 games for the Berlin side before making the switch to Italy. He’s also been capped 28 times for his country, and it is to keep his place in Austria’s squad for Euro 2020 that Lazaro is looking to make a switch for more playing time.
Newcastle United have struggled for goals this season, scoring only 21, which means that they are crying out for an injection of creativity. While Lazaro is by no means the man to score those extra goals, his versatility is his biggest asset. While he is nominally an attacking midfielder, Lazaro has played wide on both flanks as well as in central midfield, and even at wing-back, which would make sense for Newcastle given the system used by Bruce. His statistics from the Bundesliga last year make for fair reading – pass success rate of 76.3%, with 1.5 tackles, 1.4 interceptions, 1.1 dribbles, 1.8 key passes and 1.5 crosses per game (via Whoscored.com). This shows how he can be effective at both ends of the pitch, both breaking up opposition attacks as well as setting up his own teammates through his passing, crossing and dribbling.
While it is not yet clear as to what role he would play at St. James’ Park, presumably the Austrian would be picked in an attacking midfield spot. Jonjo Shelvey and the Longstaff brothers have carried most of the creative burden from midfield, and Lazaro would be a quality addition to this group, allowing them to focus more on their strengths and letting him get on with creating chances for the forwards. He could also fill in at right wing-back, ahead of the likes of DeAndre Yedlin, Emil Krafth and Javier Manquillo, who have all had a go and failed to impress in the role. What is evident is that Newcastle need an injection of quality – while they are seven points clear of the drop zone at the moment, it only takes two or three bad games to get sucked back into the mire, and with odds of 13/2 on the Magpies to be relegated this term, they are not yet out of the woods. Indeed, they face Norwich and Arsenal in their next two games in the league, and while they are marginal favourites for the Norwich game according to the bookies with odds of 5/4, the Arsenal game sees them priced at 11/2 to win and 7/2 to draw. Thus, Newcastle are still definitely in the relegation scrap, and picking up points against teams around them will help hasten their run towards safety. Lazaro can help towards that with his injection of energy and creativity.