Newcastle United take on Burnley on the final day of the Premier League season on Sunday, with the Magpies set to come up against a player on whom they had set their sights last summer in Maxwel Cornet.
Fortunately for the St James’ Park outfit, their failure to secure the signing of the Ivorian won’t come back to haunt them this weekend, with Eddie Howe having steered the previously relegation-threatened Toon into contention for a top-half finish after an outstanding second half of the campaign.
Having once looked like a game which could decide the top-flight fate of both teams, the meeting at Turf Moor no longer has much riding on it for the visitors. However, a victory could well bolster their hopes of securing the services of Cornet at the second time of asking, should the Clarets drop into the Championship.
Reports last August suggested that Newcastle, who were then managed by Steve Bruce, were considering a move for the former Lyon forward, although they ultimately lost out as he made the £12.9m switch to Lancashire towards the end of the summer transfer window.
While the Magpies’ recent sparkling form has eased the blow of missing out on the 25-year-old, they will perhaps rue not having snapped him up for what appears to be a relative bargain price when they had the chance.
However, should Burnley finish in the bottom three, the 25-cap Ivory Coast international could become available once mpre for a reduced fee, with The Athletic’s David Ornstein revealing that there is a £17.5m relegation clause in the forward’s existing deal.
The £44k-per-week gem is likely to be at the centre of a transfer tussle should that scenario occur, with his form in his debut season in England likely to have caught the eye of numerous clubs, both in the UK and abroad.
In what has been a tough campaign for Burnley, the £12.6m-rated Ivorian has netted on average one goal every three league games – with eight in 24 appearances thus far. That is a particularly impressive record considering he had often featured as a full-back or wing-back prior to this season.
Such form has also seen him dubbed “one of the signings of the season” by Owen Hargreaves, while fellow pundit Matt Holland also described the pacy gem as a player who “adds a bit of magic in the final third”.
Not just an asset in an attacking sense, the 25-year-old has also performed admirably for his team in a defensive sense, ranking in the top 10% for tackles and the top 4% for interceptions among positional peers across Europe’s top five leagues.
With doubts over Allan Saint-Maximin’s future on Tyneside and reports of the club being open to a sale, Cornet could well represent an ideal replacement, with the dynamic Burnley gem having already shown what he can do in a far from expansive outfit.
That would duly allow Newcastle to wave goodbye to the mercurial Frenchman, who has struggled for consistency in the black and white shirt, chipping in with just 11 goals and 12 assists in the league since his £16.5m arrival from Nice in 2019.
Gabby Agbonlahor has admitted that the “frustrating” fleet-footed maverick may not totally suit Howe’s style of player due to his often unpredictable nature, with Cornet offering the same electric speed and creativity, but with greater reliability.
PIF need to get the chequebook out this summer and push for the Burnley man’s arrival, righting the wrongs of the previous regime and giving them the license to cash in on the enigmatic Saint-Maximin.