4 summer transfer targets for Rafa Benitez at Newcastle United

St James' Park Newcastle

The first part of the Rafa Benitez revival project at Newcastle United is complete with the Magpies now back in the top flight. However, Benitez knows that his team needs to improve to be capable of challenging in the Premier League and is looking to make several signings over the summer transfer window.

Newcastle and Benitez moved quickly to secure their first signing of the summer with Christian Atsu making his loan deal from Chelsea permanent after impressing in the Championship. Let’s take a look at the players who could follow the Ghanian in becoming Newcastle United players…

Newcastle United: Four key summer transfer targets

Florian Lejeune

The transfer of SD Eibar defender Florian Lejeune should be completed any day now with both the Chronicle and Northern Echo reporting that the Frenchman is expected to join after both sides agreed on the structure of the deal.

Newcastle have activated an £8.7 million release clause in Lejeune’s contract, a fee which will give Eibar a healthy profit just a year after his transfer from Manchester City for £1.2 million. Benitez looks to have found a good deal abroad after baulking at high price fees for Harry Maguire and Jordan Pickford in recent weeks.

Lejuene is a strong centre back and enjoyed an impressive season with Eibar making 33 appearances and leading the way in La Liga for total amount of clearances with 187. At 26, Lejuene should be in the prime of his career and will be hoping to displace Ciaran Clark or Jamaal Lascelles from the Newcastle United first team.

Willy Caballero

One area that seems to have split opinion amongst Newcastle fans is Benitez’s interest in signing a goalkeeper.

Newcastle currently have four goalkeepers on their books (Tim Krul, Rob Elliott, Karl Darlow and Freddie Woodman) and some fans believe that three of these keepers would be enough for the Premier League season and other areas need more improvement.

However, Benitez wants his keeper to be able to play out from the back and wants an upgrade on the likes of Elliott and Darlow – who performed well in the Championship. Tim Krul has been linked with a move away and youngster Woodman could be loaned out to get more experience and playing time.

One goalkeeper that Newcastle have shown an interest in is ex-Manchester City stopper Willy Caballero. The Argentinian is now out of contract and Benitez is hoping the lure of first team football will tempt Caballero to join. Caballero would bring a wealth of experience to what is a relatively young defence for Newcastle and be able to pass from the back having been under the guidance of Pep Guardiola for a season.

Caballero’s agent has spoken of Newcastle’s interest describing the place as “cold but pretty”, with interest from both Brighton and Chelsea.

Tom Cairney

Another player that impressed in the Championship was Fulham playmaker Tom Cairney. Newcastle reportedly had a £20 million offer turned down in January and are likely to test Fulham’s resolve once again this summer.

Cairney can play in a variety of positions in midfield, often operating from the right or centrally where he is able to dictate the play with his impressive range of passing.

The Scottish international ran the show when Fulham defeated Newcastle 3-1 in March, scoring a superb goal from 25 yards. It was a performance which will have only have enhanced Benitez’s interest.

Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic has warned potential suitors off Cairney. But with Fulham having failed to gain promotion, Cairney may feel at 26 years old that now is the time to leave Fulham and once again play in the Premier League.

Kieran Gibbs

The Newcastle player who made the most appearances last season was left-back Paul Dummett. However, it seems that Benitez could be looking to add competition for his place, with Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs linked with a move.

Gibbs made only five appearances in the league last season due to injury and the form of Nacho Monreal and with the arrival of another full back in Sead Kolasinac, his time at Arsenal looks to be coming to an end.

Gibbs would most likely become the first choice left back at Newcastle ahead of Dummett and a move could reignite his hopes of making the 2018 World Cup squad. He would once again bring a wealth of experience having played over 130 games in the Premier League for Arsenal. Gibbs would also offer a much more attacking threat than any other of Newcastle’s left back options.

Which summer transfer targets would you like to see join the Magpies? Let us know below, on Twitter @JustFootball or Facebook, and follow us there for more football news, features and analysis.

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