Steve Bruce risks making a transfer error in the January window with a move by Newcastle United to sign SSC Napoli defender Faouzi Ghoulam.
According to Le Buteur, the Magpies have approached Ghoulam’s agent to request a potential half-season loan for the Algerian, who finds himself as the third-choice option at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona under Gennaro Gattuso.
Newcastle are seen to be targeting the 29-year-old as Bruce strives to strengthen his backline amid a difficult campaign, with United now only seven points clear of the relegation zone and having played more games than two of the sides below them in the table.
It is believed that there is a strong chance in Ghoulam leaving Napoli in the winter market with interest growing in the Premier League, where Chelsea are also said to be convinced by the £4.5m-rated left-back’s potential benefits.
Ghoulam has only featured for 406 minutes across all competitions so far this season, with one start in seven Serie A outings, two in four Europa League appearances and one in the Coppa Italia against second-tier FC Empoli.
Newcastle must urge Bruce to think again before pursuing a deal for Ghoulam to join the Toon on loan in the January transfer window, as the 29-year-old is an outcast at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona for a reason.
Gattuso stated earlier in the campaign that he is not afraid to upset Ghoulam’s agent, Jorge Mendes, by overlooking the left-back, after instructing the Algerian to watch Napoli’s 1-0 win against Bologna in November from the stands.
The Italy icon decided to punish Ghoulam and teammate Mario Rui by forcing them to travel to Bologna without including either in his matchday squad as he felt the pair had been lazy in training.
“They stayed in the stands, because they were jogging around in training yesterday. I brought them along anyway because it’s too easy to just let them stay home and watch it on the couch.” Gattuso told Sky Sport, via quotes by Football-Italia.
Napoli’s Sporting Director Cristiano Giuntoli added: “They weren’t concentrated or sharp enough in the final training session, so he made this decision. He saw they weren’t entirely on their toes and made this choice.”
Bruce would no doubt be reluctant to use his limited resources to sign a player who may not be as committed to the cause as Newcastle need, therefore must seriously reconsider a deal for Ghoulam who has not played regularly for Napoli since the 2016/17 season.
His rare outings in the Serie A this term would suggest Ghoulam may not be an upgrade on any of the players Bruce has already called on to play at left-back in the Premier League this season, anyway.
Jamal Lewis has been offering on average 1.8 successful tackles per game since his summer move from Norwich City, enough to rank first ahead of Paul Dummett (1.0) and Matt Ritchie (0.8) at St. James’ Park, per WhoScored, and ahead of Ghoulam (0.6) for his Italian top-flight exploits.
All Lewis (0.6), Dummett (1.5) and Ritchie (0.8) have also offered a greater number of interceptions than Ghoulam (0.3) to show Bruce they can break up play far better, and provide far more clearances with 1.7, 3 and 3.5 respectively to the Algerian’s 0.1 to show they would be better-placed to clear the Magpies’ line.
Lewis (0.6) and Dummett (0.5) are also offering a higher amount of successful dribbles to Ritchie (0) and Ghoulam (0), who are struggling to bring play forward on the ground, while Lewis (0.8) and Ritchie (1.5) are providing more key passes to the Napoli outcast (0.6) to show their box-to-box threat in the North East.
Bruce may feel Newcastle need more depth at left-back in the January window, but a move for Ghoulam would likely fail to offer the Toon chief an upgrade on his current options at either end of the field.