Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe appears to be keen to strengthen his midfield ranks this month, with the Magpies’ options having been further depleted following the recent loss of long-serving playmaker Jonjo Shelvey to a calf injury.
The 30-year-old has only featured five times this term after missing the first few months of the campaign with a hamstring issue sustained in pre-season, although it now appears that he could be facing another extended period on the sidelines due to this latest problem.
The expectation is that the former Liverpool midfielder could now be out for six to eight weeks, with that putting his long-term future at St James’ Park into doubt, with the £70k-per-week ace reportedly needing to start two more games in order to trigger a new 12-month contract extension.
As such, it could well be the case that the experienced asset is offloaded at the end of the season should his current deal expire, with that set to leave Howe without a player he has described as an “incredible technician” in the past.
Even if Shelvey is to trigger that one-year clause, though, it may well be wise for the Tynesiders to think about showing the one-time Swansea City man the door, with the arrival of a quality addition potentially set to help hasten his exit.
According to The Telegraph, one man who could be an ideal replacement for the Romford native is Chelsea‘s Ruben Loftus-Cheek, with Newcastle said to be ‘looking into the possibility of signing’ the towering Englishman.
Although the Blues are said to be ‘reluctant’ to part ways with the 26-year-old, he only has 18 months remaining on his existing deal, having been linked with a €20m (£18m) switch to Inter Milan last summer.
While the ten-cap maestro has endured his own injury woes in recent years, he has caught the eye for the Stamford Bridge outfit this season, notably averaging 1.1 tackles per game in his 14 top-flight outings.
The former Fulham loanee could offer something of an upgrade on Shelvey due to his imposing and commanding presence in midfield. He has used his stature to good effect of late as he ranks in the top 15% among his European peers for aerial duels won, with the current Newcastle man ranking in the bottom 28% in that regard.
Equally, Loftus-Cheek appears a more probing and dynamic option for Howe as he ranks in the top 6% for dribbles completed and the top 18% for progressive passes received, while Shelvey ranks in just the bottom 17% and the bottom 1% in those same metrics respectively.
Even despite the latter having been praised by Magpies boss Howe as someone who “can play passes all over the pitch“, he does appear something of a liability in possession as he only ranks in the bottom 42% for pass completion, while his potential replacement ranks in the top 14% in that metric.
That should well indicate that if Newcastle decide to part with Shelvey after more than six years at the club, they could land a possible upgrade with the signing of his compatriot Loftus-Cheek, with the latter also providing the versatility to feature on the flanks or in a wing-back role.