The January transfer window is still a number of Premier League matches and a World Cup away from rolling around but that will not stop Newcastle United sporting director Dan Ashworth from keeping his eyes open in the coming weeks and months.
Eddie Howe’s squad was bolstered over the summer as the ex-Brighton chief brought in Sven Botman, Alexander Isak, Nick Pope, and Matt Targett to improve the team.
This came after PIF sanctioned the signings of Bruno Guimaraes, Dan Burn, Kieran Trippier, and Chris Wood on permanent deals at the start of the year.
Ashworth is now looking to make further improvements to the team in 2023 and one player who is reportedly being eyed up is Vasco da Gama midfielder Andrey Santos.
The youngster only turned 18 in May and he may not be a signing with the expectation of him coming straight into the first team to start games in the Premier League. However, he could be a player with the potential to be a star for the Magpies in the future if Howe is able to unearth his talent.
Jonjo Shelvey enjoyed a run of games in the number six position for Newcastle prior to his injury last season as he averaged a SofaScore rating of 6.96 – placing him sixth in the squad – in the top-flight. He made 2.2 tackles and interceptions per game and completed 81% of his passes as he caught the eye in a deep-lying midfield role.
In Santos, Howe could find an upgrade on the former England international by easing him into life at St. James’ Park and unearthing the best of his ability.
He has shown great promise for Vasco da Gama in the Serie B in Brazil throughout 2022. The 18-year-old has averaged a SofaScore rating of 7.19 across 29 games this year, making 3.9 tackles and interceptions per game and completing 78% of his attempted passes.
Santos, who has been likened to Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets, could be more suited to Howe’s pressing style of play than Shelvey as he has been described as a “pressing machine” by talent scout Jacek Kulig.
The manager wants his team to press aggressively to win the ball back in good areas and the current Toon midfielder does not excel at this part of the game, ranking in the worst 6% for pressures per 90 among players in his position in Europe’s top five leagues over the last 365 days.
This suggests that he is one of the least aggressive pressers in that role in Europe, whilst Santos has been praised for his quality at that part of the game and their respective defensive actions per game illustrate the difference between them in terms of winning the ball back.
Therefore, Howe could land an upgrade on Shelvey if Ashworth signs Santos in January as the Brazilian youngster could slot into that role in the future and offer more to the team’s style of play with his impressive pressing and similar passing quality if he can adapt to Premier League football as he gains more experience in the game.