Newcastle United could be transformed from Premier League relegation-battlers to top-six contenders over the coming months, if reports regarding an imminent £300m takeover of the club prove accurate.
The reign of unpopular sportswear mogul Mike Ashley may soon be at an end, bringing renewed hope in the North East that a change of ownership could see the Magpies fly up the table next season.
It’s not hard to see why Newcastle supporters are optimistic. Financier Amanda Staveley has put together a consortium that includes billionaire brothers David and Simon Reuben, as well as the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia. While the latter raise certain ethical concerns, they also have the financial power to revive one of English football’s sleeping giants and bring success to St. James’ Park.
The takeover isn’t signed and sealed just yet (and there is a history of failed bids on Ashley’s watch), but Magpies’ fans will already be dreaming of a transfer splurge to rival the splash Roman Abramovich made when purchasing Chelsea in 2003.
An incredible array of talent arrived at Stamford Bridge that summer, for eye-watering prices at the time. West Ham United right-back Glen Johnson was the first to walk through the door, swiftly followed by Damien Duff, Joe Cole, Juan Sebastián Verón, Adrian Mutu, Hernán Crespo and Claude Makélélé. A total of 13 players were signed, at a cost of more than £110million.
Whether a transfer window that seismic is on the cards at Newcastle remains to be seen, but close attention will undoubtedly be paid to the new regime’s first signing. The addition of a Galáctico would signify a bold approach from Staveley and co. (in the way that Robinho’s arrival did at Manchester City), while the purchase of a hot prospect may hint at a more sustainable strategy.
One name recently linked with Steve Bruce’s side is Benfica midfielder Rafa Silva, with reports suggesting that he could be in line for a £15million move to Tyneside. While perhaps not the statement signing that would put down a marker, the Encarnados star could nonetheless prove to be a valuable acquisition if Newcastle follow through on their interest.
A Euro 2016 and UEFA Nations League winner with Portugal, the 17-cap international is no stranger to winning trophies on the biggest stage. But at 26, the time may have finally come for the man from Lisbon to play his domestic football in one of Europe’s top leagues.
That feels like the natural next step for a player who excelled at second-tier Feirense, before a three-season spell with Braga brought Silva to the attention of heavyweights Benfica. It’s been a steady climb, but the midfielder’s goalscoring exploits over the past two seasons have seen his reputation grow at home and abroad.
Seventeen Primeira Liga goals in 2018/19 have been complemented by a further five this term, while his versatility will surely be seen as a valuable asset by the Newcastle hierarchy. Silva has typically played out wide on the left flank for Benfica but has also been used on the right-wing, in a central attacking midfield role and even upfront on one occasion this season.
Despite not usually operating as an out and out forward, a record of 0.39 goals from inside the box per 90 minutes puts him in the Primeira Liga’s top 20 players. This highlights Silva’s potency when he finds himself inside the penalty area – something that’s a common occurrence with 4.64 touches in the opposition box per 90. He’s also scored an impressive 0.31 Big Chances per 90, painting the picture of someone who gets in good areas and takes the opportunities which fall to them.
But Silva has just as much to offer in wide positions too. Only five players in Portugal’s top-flight taken opponents on more frequently (5.26 per 90) and an average of 2.79 of those have been successful – the seventh-best record in the top tier. There’s also an end product to his play, with a more than respectable 12.07 passes completed in the final third per 90, as well as 0.23 assists from open play.
The midfielder is surprisingly robust; so much so he's in the league’s top ten when it comes to duels won (8.74 per 90), and is among the best performers in terms of winning the ball back in the final third (1.01 per 90).
It should be acknowledged the Primeira Liga is not an especially strong competition and Silva is playing for one of the nation’s dominant sides, these statistics make for very impressive reading indeed.
A complete attacking midfielder with pace to burn and excellent close control, Newcastle United will have got themselves an absolute bargain if they are able to secure the Portuguese star’s services for just £15million.
There may be bigger signings to come in the future at St James’ Park, but their potential new owners could prove themselves to be shrewd operators by making Silva their first acquisition.