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‘We will speak about it’, said Aleksandar Mitrovic in a interview in June, considering his future at Newcastle United. Fast forward to October, Newcastle are back in the Premier League after just one season in the Championship.
Mitrovic, 23, who helped Magpies win promotion, continues to be linked with other clubs – both in England and abroad. And few reports, have linked the Serbian striker with a January transfer to Premier League new boys Brighton and Hove Albion.
When Mitrovic signed for Newcastle back in 2015 for a fee of £13m, it brought extreme delight to the fans as the club had finally splashed good cash for a relatively unknown talent then. But Mitrovic has had a mixed time on Tyneside since his switch from Anderlecht. The 23-year-old has provided glimpses of potential but has not been able to match it by his scoring record at Newcastle, with the Serb’s 59 league appearances yielding only 14 league goals.
Under manager Rafael Benitez, Mitrovic started just 11 matches for Newcastle in the Championship last season, making one substitution appearance. In Championship, Benitez clearly lacked faith in the big striker and in this campaign, Rafa has limited him to one substitute appearance, in which the Serbian scored.
Benitez spent much of the summer in search of a striker, with the desire to trade Mitrovic in a deal. Instead, the former Liverpool manager signed Joselu from Stoke, who is now ahead of Mitrovic in the pecking order, with the Spaniard and Dwight Gayle currently the preferred options up front.
Hot-headed Mitrovic has also not helped his case after he was hit with a three-match ban for elbowing West Ham midfielder Manuel Lanzini in August. This incident saw Benitez run out of patience, subsequently leaving the striker out of the squad for the 1-1 draw at home to Liverpool that preceded this international break.
With Joselu and Gayle being Benitez’s trusted weapons, Mitrovic’s uncertain future has certainly caught the eyes of Brighton manager Chris Hughton, who sent his scouts to watch the centre-forward in action during Serbia’s 3-2 loss to Austria on Friday.
Brighton are desperate to add attackers when the transfer window reopens in January, after failing to land any of their top deadline day targets. The Seagulls have just scored 5 goals in their first 7 Premier League games and Israeli striker Tomer Hemed, who has two of them, is currently banned for three matches after a stamp on DeAndre Yedlin.
So the move to bring Mitrovic to Amex makes clear sense. Despite failing to light up St. James’ Park so far, Mitrovic is a striker filled with pace, power and physicality. In his two seasons at Belgium, the forward’s 44 goals in 90 appearances garnered interest from Newcastle and he moved eventually.
It has been a far different story at international level as Mitrovic has proved to be a major force. In 32 games, he has scored 10 goals. In the ongoing 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, he scored a brace in a 3–2 win against Austria and the equaliser against Wales in a 1–1 draw in 2016. His rich vein of form continued in 2017 as he netted against Georgia, Wales, and Moldova, and assisted Aleksandar Prijovic for the winner against Georgia as Serbia qualified for the World Cup in Russia.
There is no doubt over his talent but it is sad to see the 23-year-old also having an ugly face to his game. He has been red carded a number of times in Belgium as well as in England, yet Mitrovic fails to keep his head in check.
Known for crazy haircuts and tattoos, there will be no questions about Mitrovic’s dedication on the field. Hughton has to be well aware of his hot-headed nature and should manage him accordingly, which Benitez has failed to do so far.
If Brighton succeed in getting Mitrovic, the fans will be in for a treat to finally watch a striker with immense potential. Mitrovic could well be a proper targetman to lead the goal-shy Seagulls’s attack. Love him or hate him but you just cannot stop Mitrovic from spreading colours!