In Focus: Winning Slimani race vital to Newcastle survival bid

According to Sky sources, Newcastle have reached an agreement with Leicester City to loan striker Islam Slimani for the remainder of the campaign.

What’s the word?

With strikers once again proving the most sought-after commodity in the transfer market for clubs at both ends of the Premier League table, Slimani has found himself a surprisingly popular figure in recent days despite making just two top flight starts for Leicester City this season and finding the net only once from twelve league outings overall.

Chelsea were reported to have made an enquiry for the Algerian international last week while reliable insider ExWHUEmployee claimed on Twitter late last night that West Ham were in talks to sign Slimani as well – but it now appears Newcastle have won the race for the 6 foot 2 front-man’s services.

The striker Newcastle desperately need?

At this point in the transfer window, it feels as if any striker will do for Newcastle after depending on the much-maligned Joselu for the first half of the campaign. Only five clubs have scored less top flight goals than the Magpies this season and their three main strike options – Joselu, Dwight Gayle and Ayoze Perez – have found only nine Premier League strikes between them.

But it must be remembered that Slimani wasn’t Newcastle’s preferred option – they missed out on Daniel Sturridge to West Brom and Mike Ashley refused to meet Feyenoord’s £22million valuation of Nicolai Jorgensen – and there’s a very good reason for that.

Slimani’s never quite justified his £28million price-tag at the King Power Stadium, failing to prove an effective partner for Jamie Vardy and scoring only eight Premier League goals in 18 months. His performances have been inconsistent at best, and Leicester will be quietly pleased to get him off the wage bill for the next six months.

Can Newcastle get the best out of him?

Perhaps. With Benitez clearly disappointed by his attacking options, there’s little doubt Slimani will be treated like something of a star man up on Tyneside and the fact he’s arriving so late in the transfer window only adds to the narrative of the 29-year-old being Newcastle’s much-needed midseason saviour.

Tall and powerful, he certainly suits the way Benitez likes to set up his side with an old-fashioned front-man who can hold up the ball and bring others into the game – he’s for all intents and purposes an upgrade on what Joselu offers the Newcastle team. Likewise, it shouldn’t be forgotten how highly-rated Slimani – who Transfermarkt value at £19.8million – was before arriving in the Premier League, when he scored 57 goals in 109 appearances for Sporting Lisbon.

If Benitez can rekindle that kind of scoring form from Slimani while maintaining his ability to lead the line, he could prove to be the difference between survival and relegation for the 15th-placed side.

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