Most Newcastle fans will know very little about Aleksandar Mitrovic, but his arrival from Anderlecht must have brought about an overriding feeling of relief for many of them.
Last season the Toon Army endured the squeakiest of squeaky bum times as the club suffered a catastrophic run of form only to end up avoiding relegation by an all too slender a margin.
This was followed by the appointment of Steve McClaren; an experienced and fairly successful coach, but ultimately a man who fails to set pulses racing amongst English football fans.
A summer of discontent then ensued with the Newcastle board seemingly doing nothing as Premier League rivals brought in re-enforcements. Things are changing though, and it appears that owner Mike Ashley has finally sanctioned the long awaited loosening of the purse strings.
Georginio Wijnaldum arrived just over a week ago from PSV Eindhoven for the third highest fee in the club’s history, £14.5m, and now Mitrovic has become the second signing of the window, for a slightly more modest £13m.
It seems the cash is at last being splashed. Mitrovic is a striker, too. And in the North East, oh how they love a striker.
The Serb, to his credit, despite his young age already has something of a reputation as a goal machine and it is this that will be getting the heart rates racing on Tyneside. Mitrovic has been regarded as one of Europe’s most promising young forwards for a few years now and over the last two campaigns has backed up the talk with statistics.
The 20-year-old netted 28 times in all competitions for Anderlecht last term – a great return for an inexperienced player – from 51 appearances. The reason Newcastle fans have every right to be feeling positive is that the bustling centre forward could easily be compared to club legend, Alan Shearer.
At just under 6ft 3″, the former Partizan Belgrade man is a real powerhouse and a bullish natural finisher. These attributes mean he thrives on anything played in behind opposition defences and seems equally adept at attacking crosses or ‘putting himself about’. With the right service, it is just possible that the youngster could go some way to emulating one of Newcastle’s favourite sons.
Mitrovic himself is fully aware of the standard to which he will be held, claiming that he “loves pressure” and that Shearer is someone he regards as a hero.
Next season the service to the front man will now be key to the success of Tyneside’s biggest club. If they can give their latest acquisition something to work with, they should see an improvement on last year’s dismal showing.
Of course there will be concerns that the new signing represents a significant outlay on a youngster as yet unproven in one of the continent’s top leagues, but the prolific nature of his form and the sheer natural ruthlessness with which he amassed his goal tally last season suggests that the only barriers to his success in the English top flight will be psychological.
Mitrovic is reported to be a moody character and an individual who appears immature. These are often traits associated with gifted individuals and of course they can be overcome. It might be a concern though that if he finds the adjustment to life at St James’ Park difficult to begin with, then the club might never see him reach his true potential.
Magpies boss Steve McClaren will be the man tasked with ensuring Mitrovic is mentally ready for the challenge of the Premier League. The former England manager is a coach of vast experience, but he will be pinning his hopes on his young forward hitting the ground running.
McClaren says that the club fought off competition from around Europe to secure the player’s signature. With the right tactics and man management they can show the Premier League that it was worth the effort.