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With Newcastle United reportedly interested in signing Chelsea midfielder Lewis Baker, some are suggesting that this would end their interested in Fulham’s Tom Cairney.
Not so in my opinion, as Cairney is seen by Rafa as someone who can fill the Steven Gerrard role – a player so fit and expansive that he is a midfield player when the opposition has the ball but a no.10 when his own side are in possession.
This is not the case with the £4.8million rated Baker, but he is the type of player needed at Newcastle. With Diame out of position, Colback not good enough and Anita having now been released by the club, Newcastle only have Jonjo Shelvey and the inexperienced Isaac Hayden left as deep lying central midfield players.
On top of this, there was a heavy over-reliance on Shelvey’s passing to get Newcastle ticking last term in the Championship, and Benitez knows fully well that this cannot be the case by the time the Premier League kicks off in August.
With that in mind, Baker would be an ideal signing. Starting all of his 33 games while on loan at Vitesse in the Eredivise last season, Baker finished the season with a pass completion rate of nearly 83%. He played 1.8 key passes per game which resulted in 2 assists for his side – this on top of 10 goals of his own in the Netherlands’ top division.
His 0.6 tackles and 1.1 interceptions per game also show that he digs in and can win the ball back for his team, making him an all-action central midfield player. He is someone who Benitez will expect to challenge the improving ex-Arsenal man Hayden for a place in the team .
Despite sitting slightly deep, Baker managed an average of 2.6 shots at goal per game in the Netherlands last season and would certainly make his presence felt in the Premier League as he continues to improve his game.
Chelsea are looking to give him another season-long loan, but Newcastle may be able to repeat the trick they performed with Christian Atsu, by taking him for a season and then signing him permanently next year.
Such a move would put Newcastle in a strong position. If Baker is successful, they will want to sign him. If he’s not, they will not exercise their right to keep him long term. Such moves are sensible when coming back into the Premier League and I’m sure Rafa will make the right call.