Late Wednesday, news broke that Newcastle have restarted talks with Southampton for Mario Lemina. The 27-year-old has been tracked by Newcastle’s scouting team for months but Mike Ashley was unwilling to sanction a cash deal due to him turning 28 in September.
The Saints want to offload their former-record signing who has spent the last two seasons away on loan. He’s in the final year of his contract and has been made available for a fraction of the fee Southampton paid for him four years ago.
In June, talks for Lemina broke down as Ashley wouldn’t part with the £4m required to bring him to St. James’ Park. However, he’s since been persuaded that in this market that is a massive bargain for a quality Premier League midfielder.
After Sunday’s defeat at York City, Steve Bruce revealed Newcastle were progressing on a couple of targets in addition to Arsenal’s Joe Willock. Bruce also expressed frustration with his depleted midfield proclaiming he was very short at the position.
Lemina could be one of the targets Bruce referenced over the weekend. If so, a deal could theoretically be worked out rather quickly. Southampton are willing sellers and they’ve set a very reasonable fee for the midfielder, who also has a standing offer from Ligue 1’s Nice.
Newcastle have reportedly offered a three-year contract to Lemina. Hopefully, there won’t be any issues on the midfielder’s part with the length of the deal. It would keep him on Tyneside until he was 30 which could work out well for Newcastle.
If this deal gets done, it almost certainly means Matty Longstaff will be made available for loan. It also gets dicey for Sean Longstaff’s chances in the first-team, and that would be even further complicated should Willock return on loan.
The brothers are entering the final year of their contracts with no breakthrough on long-term deals in sight. Their futures are very much up in the air at the moment and we could be in for more contract sagas this season.
However, competition is healthy and that is what Lemina will provide. He’s an upgrade on Jeff Hendrick, who was out of the team for the bulk of Newcastle’s late-season run in April and May.
Getting both Lemina and Willock will provide options galore for Bruce as they can battle Sean, Isaac Hayden, Jonjo Shelvey, Miguel Almiron, and Hendrick for minutes.
Former Arsenal striker Kevin Campbell reckons Lemina would be an excellent signing. This is what he told Football Insider when asked about the potential move and what it could mean for Willock, should he return on loan:
“I don’t think Newcastle fans need to worry about him being a direct replacement for Joe Willock. He plays in a deeper role.
“He is a holding midfielder who puts a tackle in, can battle and is very good on the ball. Lemina is a player who could bring some real stability to their midfield. I think he would be a great signing because he has proven that he can handle the Premier League.
“He could easily partner a Joe Willock because Willock is more of an attacking threat. A box-to-box type of player.
“I think they’d compliment each other well. I think they’ve got a chance of signing Lemina and Willock on loan.”