Reports by The Sun (7/2, p. 60) earlier this month claimed Newcastle United are planning to offer Federico Fernandez a new contract, but suggested the defender may be willing to ditch St. James’ Park for a Premier League rival.
Fernandez is keen to see his performances return a new, two-year deal having now entered into the final six-months of his current terms, only to be met with a stumbling block by the Toon only being willing to activate their option to extend his existing deal by a further year.
The 31-year-old would be willing to walk away from Tyneside if the Magpies refuse to offer him the additional 12-months he desires, which would see Fernandez’s United career run into a fifth season.
And if Newcastle are unwilling to meet Fernandez’s demands, the £4m-rated titan would want to stay in the Premier League having moved to England with Swansea City in 2014 and proven to be a stable regular in the division since.
Fernandez moved to the North East in 2018 for £6m and has gone on to make 67 top-flight appearances for the Toon, including starting all 16 of his outings this term but has not been seen on the field since losing 1-0 to Sheffield United on January 12.
The 32-cap Argentina international was one of the several Newcastle players who tested positive for Covid-19 amid an outbreak at Darsley Park in November, and is still yet to fully recover from the virus.
Bruce will now feel his absence even more after losing Fabian Schar for several months, after the centre-half sustained a torn knee ligament in the 75th-minute of Saturday’s 3-2 win over Southampton.
The Magpies had already been forced into fielding holding midfielder Isaac Hayden beside Schar for the Saints’ trip to St. James’ Park, with captain Jamaal Lascelles out with a hamstring injury and Paul Dummett only deemed fit enough for a seat on the bench.
Bruce would surely love to have Fernandez available to fill in at the back against Chelsea when Newcastle visit Stamford Bridge next Monday, with his efforts so far this season often at a consistent level above the performances of Schar, Lascelles, Dummett or Ciaran Clark.
Only Hayden, across the 25-year-old’s four outings at centre-back this term, has managed to average a greater number of successful tackles a game (2.8) than Fernandez (1.5) but from a marginally worse success rate of 84.6% to the Argentine’s 85.7%, per WhoScored.
But Fernandez is first when it comes to clearances (5.6), with an average that sees the 31-year-old rank seventh across all Premier League players when keeping things simple to protect their respective goals.
Fernandez again comes out strongly to protect Karl Darlow’s net with a Toon-high 1.3 shots blocked per game, and is far safer in retaining the ball with Clark (0.7), Hayden (0.5) and Lascelles (0.5) all recording a greater number of unsuccessful touches (0.2) in a part of the pitch where mistakes are punished the most.
It is also those aspects that make it a no brainer for Bruce to urge Newcastle owner Mike Ashley and Managing Director Lee Charnley to present the £47,000-per-week colossus with the two-year deal he desires, as it would be foolish to let Fernandez leave St. James’ Park this summer.