In Focus: Mitrovic’s Anderlecht return a case of untapped potential for Newcastle

According to Sky sources, Newcastle United have agreed to loan Aleksandar Mitrovic back to former club Anderlecht.

What’s the word?

Sky Sports’ North East correspondent Keith Downie alleged on Twitter this morning that Newcastle had reached an agreement with Anderlecht to loan them game-shy striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, provided they could seal a replacement in the form of Leicester City’s Islam Slimani. Well, it appears the Magpies have now got their man – something also reported by Sky Sports – suggesting Mitrovic will return to his former club before tonight’s deadline.

Why hasn’t it worked out at Newcastle?

The strange irony of this situation is that, in the eyes of many, Mitrovic has been the best strike option at Rafa Benitez’s disposal this season. He offers the height and power the Spaniard wants from his centre-forwards and his first Premier League season produced nine goals – an incredibly impressive return for a striker who was just 21 years old at the time.

But Benitez never felt like he could trust the Serbian international because of his discipline problems, sent off twice in his Magpies career, and has accordingly issued him just six Premier League appearances this season, all from the bench, equating to just 89 minutes’ worth of game-time. And the fact he’s not getting in the team despite Newcastle’s other strike options – Dwight Gayle, Joselu and Ayoze Perez – providing just nine league goals this term made it patently obvious the 23-year-old doesn’t feature in Benitez’s plans.

Have we seen the last of Mitrovic?

Mitrovic rejoins the club where he made his name with 44 goals in 90 appearances and his return to Anderlecht is rather symbolic of how the 6 foot 2 striker never reached his full potential on Tyneside. When he first joined Newcastle, he was seen as something of a coup after being linked with a number of big clubs from around Europe.

But it’s only a loan deal – most likely until the end of the season – and his contract will have another two years left to run come the summer. Perhaps Mitrovic is hedging his bets here; aware of the possibility that Benitez could well leave Newcastle at some point before next season, and that he could accordingly get another chance under a new manager.

Even if he doesn’t have a future at Newcastle though, we could well see Mitrovic in the Premier League again at some point. He’s well suited to the English game and despite the narrative of untapped potential, he’s still just 23 and remains Serbia’s main striker with 33 caps under his belt – including seven alone in 2017.

Brighton have already failed with an £8million swoop for Mitrovic this month and if he’s made available in the summer, it wouldn’t be surprising for the Seagulls and other Premier League sides to come in for him. He still feels like a player who could be a real force in the Premier League under the right manager.

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