After rumour upon rumour regarding potential Newcastle forward targets since Steve McClaren took over at St James’ Park less than three weeks ago, it seems the former England manager has switched his focus to the Magpies’ dreary backline.
Bar goalkeeper Tim Krul and right-back Daryl Janmaat, Newcastle’s defenders were generally awful last term, and even current captain Fabricio Coloccini, who’ll be 34 next year, may not be safe from the axe this summer.
John Carver was terrible at managing and a whole lot worse in front of a TV camera, but he couldn’t have done much about the likes of Mike Williamson getting himself sent off after kicking lumps out of Leicester, or Steven Taylor failing to play more than 15 times in the Premier League for the fourth season in five.
McClaren will surely have clocked his new side’s biggest frailty after Newcastle let in 63 goals in the top flight last term, the second-most behind basement boys QPR and six more than third-highest conceders Aston Villa.
Considering Ron Vlaar was part of the Villa rearguard that shipped 20 goals in their last nine all-competition fixtures of the 2014/15 campaign, it was odd to see the 30-year-old Dutchman’s name linked with a north-east switch, but the latest defender mentioned in the same breath as Newcastle could be cause for excitement.
Joel Matip’s Schalke breakthrough came during the 2010/11 campaign, when the then-19-year-old started 11 of Die Konigsblauen’s last 18 games of the season, including Champions League last-16, quarter-final, and semi-final clashes against Valencia, Inter, and Manchester United.
Despite being born in Germany, Matip had already declared for Cameroon by then and enjoyed arguably his finest hour in a football jersey when equalising against Brazil at last summer’s World Cup, although the Canarinho hosts won 4-1 in the end.
Schalke coach Horst Heldt recently insisted that his 6ft4in centre-half wishes to stay in the Bundesliga, but other reports suggest he’s open to a Premier League move.
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