The Newcastle United fans in the Transfer Tavern have been mightily impressed by the partnership which Jamaal Lascelles and Florian Lejeune have formed this season, but recent reports suggest Lejeune could face fresh competition for a starting berth this summer.
Although Lascelles was snubbed by Gareth Southgate for the World Cup, it’s fair to say he was a shining light in Newcastle’s season upon their return to the Premier League. Alongside an individually outstanding centre-back there is almost always a partner who deserves some credit for his teammates success, and in Lascelles’ case that man is the 27-year-old Lejeune.
The French centre-back’s first season in English football was interrupted by two major injury problems, but he managed to shrug off a training injury at just the right time as he returned to first-team action for the Magpies 1-0 victory over Manchester United in February in which he was immense alongside Lascelles. Lejeune never looked back from that moment and he went on to complete 90 minutes in Newcastle’s final 11 fixtures which followed, however, recent reports from Turkey suggest he could face fresh competition for a starting berth next season.
According to Turkish media outlet Fotomac, the former Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel has emerged as a target for Newcastle this summer after Rangers decided against a move due to his wage demands. Skrtel’s current club Fenerbahce are eager to sell the 33-year-old veteran due to the financial strain that his contract is placing on the club, and Rafa Benitez could well be tempted to reunite with a player he worked alongside at Liverpool if he is available on a cut-price deal.
However, Benitez should resist the temptation of a low transfer fee and instead focus his interest elsewhere due to Skrtel’s age and history in the top-flight. The Slovakia international has plenty of experience at both club and international level, but he has always been prone to making fundamental errors of judgement and showing signs of petulance in high-pressure situations.
Now that Lascelles and Lejeune have formed such an impressive centre-back partnership it would represent a massive step backwards for Benitez to rock the boat and replace the latter with Skrtel next season, as he has the potential to be a liability if his head isn’t in the right place.
Benitez must bare this in mind before pursuing a potential deal, otherwise he could make a huge error of judgement in the transfer market this summer and tarnish the chemistry of a solid defensive partnership.
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