In recent weeks under manager Eddie Howe, they have become more solid and organised at the back – but with their youngest centre-back, club-captain Jamaal Lascelles, being 28-years-old and turning 29 before the end of this year, fans will be frustrated by former Chairman Mike Ashley’s mistake in not signing Southampton star Mohammed Salisu back in 2020 after being interested.
At the time, the Ghanaian central defender was playing at Spanish outfit Rayo Vallecano aged 20, and and was subsequently signed by the Saints for £10.9m – peanuts in comparison to the £40m they paid for Brazilian forward Joelinton earlier in the same season – who has since transitioned into a midfielder after struggling up-top.
In January, the Tyneside club almost secured his services again – this time for £40m – a near 300% increase from the fee which they were initially debating with themselves whether or not to pay, just under two and a half years ago.
Excluding signings made in the winter transfer window, Newcastle’s highest performing defender across the season is Fabian Schar, who has averaged a match rating of 6.88 according to SofaScore, meanwhile, Salisu’s rating of 6.97, as well as a total of six clean sheets, beats them all.
Nicknamed a ‘Scorpion King’, he has made on average 2.4 interceptions and tackles each per game in the Premier League, with the Southampton star clearly possessing the qualities to have been a key player for Howe’s team to build his backline around.
Having been described as a “nasty” defender to come up against by his manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, the 22-year-old would be a crucial asset to have in any relegation battle.
Salisu is quickly establishing himself now not just as one of the league’s top up-and-coming defenders, but also in Europe too, ranking among defenders in the top five leagues and continental competitions over the last 365 days in the top 2% for tackles per 90 (2.86), top 7% for successful pressure percentage per 90 (41.9%) and top 7% for ball recoveries per 90 (11.49).
It’s clear that Southampton have a gem on their hands, but from Newcastle’s perspective, they made a dreadful mistake in not snapping him up for cheap when they had the chance.