Newcastle United have enjoyed a fine start to the season thus far after moving themselves firmly into contention for a top-four berth, with Eddie Howe’s side having lost just one of their opening 15 Premier League games to continue the remarkable resurgence during the Englishman’s tenure.
One man that has been somewhat on the periphery of that stunning start to the campaign is fleet-footed Frenchman, Allan Saint-Maximin, with the 25-year-old having made just seven league appearances thus far due to injury, only four of which have come from the start.
While the former Nice man – who arrived at St James’ Park just over three years ago – has still chipped in with four goal contributions despite his lack of action this term, it has perhaps become a source of frustration as far as the Magpies are concerned that he has been unable to stay fit, having been hampered by injuries over the years.
For all the forward’s creative talents and lightning speed, that has not always been coupled with an end product, with the £70k-per-week maverick having registered just 13 goals and 19 assists in 101 games for the northeast side to date.
The winger’s failure to “find that consistency” – as per pundit Noel Whelan – has perhaps become something of a concern as far as Howe and co are concerned, with reports over the summer even claiming that the club were willing to cash in on the entertaining asset.
If the Tynesiders are looking to part ways with the cult figure, they could well have already identified a possible replacement in the form of Real Valladolid starlet, Gonzalo Plata, with transfer insider Dean Jones recently suggesting that the 22-year-old is a player that Newcastle are keeping tabs on.
The former Sporting Lisbon man – who made the move to Spain in an £8.5m deal in the summer after an initial loan spell – had been tipped for a move to Leeds United over the summer, having caught the eye as a result of his displays for club and country.
The Ecuador international has already “impressed” at the World Cup, in the words of CBS reporter Ben Jacobs, having played his part in his nation’s 2-0 win over hosts Qatar on Sunday, proving himself something of a livewire in his wide berth.
As Jacobs also stated, the 31-cap gem showed his qualities as a player who is “fast, direct and can pick a pass“, having illustrated that quality in La Liga 2 last term in which he recorded 11 goal involvements.
The “trickster” – as described by Adrian Blanco – no doubt possesses that captivating, magical quality that has also been Saint-Maximin’s trademark, with the aforementioned Jones notably describing him as a ‘game-changer, a man who can produce something out of nothing’.
Those are traits that have regularly been attributed to Newcastle’s current showman, while the two men also share a number of statistical and stylistic similarities, as per FBref, with the one-time Monaco ace ranking in the top 1% for dribbles completed, while Plata ranks in the top 7% for the same metric.
While it would prove something of an emotional farewell were PIF to cash in on Saint-Maximin, replacing him with the lively Ecuadorian could well be the perfect solution.