Newcastle boss Steve Bruce is making a major mistake over Florian Lejeune as Chris Waugh delivers a crucial update on his future.
The centre-back joined Alaves on a season-long loan after an injury-ravaged time at St James’ Park, but has been a virtual ever-present for the La Liga side this season, making 32 appearances in all competitions.
And now, writing for The Athletic, Waugh said: “With Lejeune turning 30 later this month, there has been no indication yet that Newcastle will look to extend his deal and, as things stand, perversely, he actually appears to be the most likely defender to leave. Alaves, who are fighting relegation, are keen to keep him if they survive, and both Lejeune and Bruce may feel it is best for the Frenchman to move on.”
Dubbed by Waugh as someone who’s got “everything“, the journalist added: “The Frenchman, who is both comfortable in possession and an excellent reader of the game, is arguably Newcastle’s best all-round defender.”
And that belief is something that was reflected by former Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez, who seemed to absolutely adore the man he signed at St James’ Park. Speaking back in September 2018, he said: “Then, in the months after he came back, he settled down because he is strong mentally, and then he was passing the ball and giving confidence to the team and all the players around. He became a very important player for us.
“Florian has been a big miss for us in terms of what he means for us as a crucial member of the team. The style of football he brings and helps us to adapt to is something we have lost.”
The £40k-a-week earning titan has proven his fitness at Alaves this season, and news that he looks like the defender most likely to leave this summer seems incredibly baffling given the high regard both those inside and outside the club hold him in.
The Magpies haven’t exactly been a defensive fortress this season either, with their total of 56 goals conceded in the Premier League only better than three other teams in the entire division – two of them being in the relegation zone right now.
Lejeune, at the very least, deserves a chance to impress in pre-season and prove that he can stay fit here in England just like he has been doing over in Spain, but this latest update just shows that Bruce is making a major mistake.