Spezia Calcio’s Technical Director Mauro Meluso dealt Newcastle United a huge blow in relation to their rumoured interest in M’Bala Nzola over the weekend, when he told Citta Della Spezia what it would take to sign the Angola international.
Steve Bruce can forget any hopes of acquiring the Serie A star after the Toon reportedly agreed to hand Dwight Gayle a new three-year contract, to avoid the 31-year-old leaving St. James’ Park as a free agent this summer.
Gayle’s current £40,000-per-week deal was due to expire in June and the forward had been linked with Galatasaray as well as clubs in the Middle East, Europe and Major League Soccer, though is now expected to pen new terms with a lesser salary.
Yet United’s decision to tie Gayle down through to the summer of 2024 has been questioned, with former Leeds striker Noel Whelan left stunned.
“I’m shocked to hear he’s been given a new deal, because I do not think Steve Bruce will be there until the end of the year,” he told Football Insider. “Newcastle are deep in a relegation battle so to hand out contracts now, when everything is up in the air, I find that pretty bewildering.
“It is not as if he has been given much game time. How can you hand out a three-year contract to a player who has barely played, under a manager who might not be there? They might need that money to sign better players in the summer. It is really strange.”
Gayle has scored once in 11 Premier League appearances after a delayed start to his season due to a medial collateral ligament injury, with the London-born frontman’s only strike to date coming in his first outing against West Bromwich Albion in December.
Bruce has also only fielded Gayle in the starting line-up on two occasions, and – as Whelan notes – retaining the 31-year-old could now impact Newcastle’s activity in the transfer market when better options may be available.
Nzola emerged as a potential option for Newcastle to target during the winter market, with reports by Club Dorla 46 and Calciomercato citing the Magpies and West Ham as leading candidates for the AC Milan and SSC Napoli target.
Spezia were reluctant to part with the Angola international at the time and managed to fend off all approaches, and have since seen the 24-year-old take his tally for the term to nine goals in 18 Serie A appearances.
Newcastle could potentially look to revive their interest at the end of the season, but any hopes of getting a deal done now appear dead in the water with Gayle in line for a new contract and with Spezia chief Meluso setting a high asking price.
“His market value? I have a number in my head, but it is difficult to say today,” he told Citta Della Spezia. “The price makes the question. But what I have in my head is very high.
“But the salvation of this season is of great importance on everything, the club’s assets depend on this. If we were to save ourselves, the players would have a greater value and they know it, they are aware of it.”
Spezia sit 15th in the Serie A table and seven points clear of the relegation zone coming out of the international break, thanks heavily to Nzola’s team-high return of goals. His strikes have directly influenced results against Cagliari Calcio, Bologna FC 1909, Napoli and UC Sampdoria.
Newcastle could yet revive their interest in the forward, described by his former coach Nicola Antonio Calabro as “very strong”, but the chances of getting would appear slim, especially given the financial commintent they look set to make to Gayle.
AND in other news, a “more than fantastic” 46-year-old is keen to replace Steve Bruce at Newcastle…