Having made remarkable progress under the management of Eddie Howe, Newcastle United are now looking to seal a summer swoop for Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse, who has been the shining light of his relegation-threatened outfit this term.
With Saints battling to preserve their top-flight status, bottom of the Premier League having played 25 matches, outlet Football Insider recently reported that the Magpies could be posted to raid the south coast club if they fail in their bid for survival.
This follows a previous report that divisional rivals Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur were also keen admirers of the maestro, and with such intense and increasing interest in his name, United’s technical director Dan Ashworth would be prudent to make the requisite moves in taking the lead in the race before the season’s conclusion, putting in the groundwork that could swing the odds in the pivotal moments.
Hailed as “sensational” by former Premier League forward Darren Bent, Ward-Prowse is valued at £36.5m by Football Transfers, with his contract at St. Mary’s Stadium running until 2026.
Is Ward-Prowse similar to James Maddison?
With the interest in Ward-Prowse starting to gain steam, his prospective summer arrival on Tyneside could spell the end of speculation surrounding Leicester City’s James Maddison, with rumours of a transfer to Newcastle not subsiding after the pursuit last summer.
The outfit failed with a £50m bid for the dynamic midfielder after previously seeing a £40m proposal rejected, with the Foxes demanding at least £60m for one of their most coveted assets.
Considering Maddison’s dead-ball prowess – which was hailed by England boss Gareth Southgate – bears striking similarities to Ward-Prowse’s – who has been dubbed a “set-piece master” by broadcaster Maximiliano Bretos – Howe could have a tailor-made fallback that could even surpass the impact the former might make.
Having scored an incredible 17 direct free-kicks in the Premier League, the £100k-per-week Saint is now just one behind tying Manchester United legend David Beckham in the all-time leaderboard, having recently netted the winner with a swooping effort in a crucial victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
As per Sofascore, the ace’s 7.25 average league rating this term is the highest in the Southampton squad, highlighting his importance to an outfit desperate for a leader to steer them away from danger, and if he could carry that energy to Newcastle, a team fighting for silverware and European football, such endeavours could be achieved.
With six goals and seven ‘big chances’ created from 25 matches, Ward-Prowse averages 1.2 shots and 2.1 key passes per outing, completing 83% of his passes and making 1.7 tackles per match, also winning 48% of his duels, illustrating the profound impact across each department of the midfield that indeed cements the “hero” – as lauded by writer Kaelen Jones – as one of the most robust and energetic engines in the country.
With Maddison – who has scored nine goals and created five ‘big chances’ in the league – proving to be a difficult Fox to prise away from the den, Ward-Prowse could indeed be the perfect alternative, and, if Southampton do fall into the Championship, clinching his signature could be both cost-effective and far less strenuous.
And given his talismanic role, his ability in the final third, and the set-piece ‘mastery’ of the 28-year-old, the quality of his play could be invaluably injected into Howe’s enthralling project on Tyneside instead of Maddison.