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Newcastle keeping tabs on Nicolo Zaniolo

Newcastle United are believed to be monitoring AS Roma star Nicolo Zaniolo ahead of the January transfer window, with the Italy international yet to commit his future to the Serie A side.

What’s the word?

According to Italian outlet Radio Radio, the Magpies have reportedly been chasing the 23-year-old ‘for a few months’, with it looking increasingly likely that the playmaker could be sold in the near future.

The 11-cap Italy gem – who had been heavily linked with a move to Tottenham Hotspur over the summer – has just 18 months remaining on his current deal at the Stadio Olimpico, putting his long-term future into doubt under Jose Mourinho.

That expiring contract could well see any interested party look to secure a cut-price agreement in 2023, with previous reports suggesting a potential fee of around €25m (£22m).

Ideal Maddison alternative

The signing of a creative midfield addition appears to be firmly on the agenda for Newcastle boss Eddie Howe, with the St James’ Park outfit having shown interest in Leicester City talisman, James Maddison, in recent times.

Having seen a reported £50m bid for the Englishman rejected during the summer window, there have been claims over the last few months that the Tynesiders could follow up that interest with a fresh approach next month, with the 26-year-old also having just 18 months left on his contract at the King Power Stadium.

According to The Telegraph’s Luke Edwards, however, the northeast side may find it difficult to prise the former Norwich City man from the Midlands any time soon, with the player only set to move on at the end of the season ‘at the earliest’.

Should Howe and co wish to put that long-running saga behind them, they could well find a suitable alternative to the Foxes star in Zaniolo, with the 6 foot 3 “lethal playmaker” – as described by journalist Zach Lowry – having shone in Rome of late.

The £79k-per-week maestro has recorded five goal contributions in all competitions so far this term, after previously registering 17 goals and assists across all fronts, proving himself something of a nightmare for the rest of the division.

Although that record cannot match that of Maddison – who has 11 goal involvements so far this term and 30 to his name last season – the signs are that Zaniolo can offer a creative presence in the final third.

That is shown by the fact that the latter man averages 7.7 progressive passes received per 90 and averages 5.6 touches per game in the attacking penalty area to illustrate his willingness to get forward, with that seeing him outperform Maddison who averages 4.81 and 3.23 for those same two metrics, respectively.

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Equally, with it having proven particularly difficult to prise the Coventry-born gem from his current surroundings of late, Howe could potentially land a more attainable target in the form of the Italian.

While Zaniolo may not be ripping it up quite as impressively as Maddison is at present, the Roma maestro could certainly prove an astute and cheaper alternative for the Magpies to help bolster their attacking midfield ranks.