Arrival of Kieran Trippier shows new-found pulling power of Newcastle United

Signing England right-back from Atletico Madrid represents major coup for relegation-haunted Magpies

Kieran Trippier won the Spanish title with Atletico Madrid last season. AFP
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They are a select group, numbering just three. Sir Bobby Charlton, Gary Lineker and Kieran Trippier are the only Englishmen to score in a World Cup semi-final and if the right-back feels an incongruous presence in such distinguished company, it nevertheless underlines what a coup it would be for Newcastle to sign him.

Since their takeover by the consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, there have been questions about who would be lured to Tyneside by Newcastle’s status among the super-rich, but also increasing suspicions that their plight might deter many a player with options and ambitions.

Half-way through the season, United have a solitary win. Only Norwich, Watford and Burnley are within eight points of them. They don’t have much margin for error now.

Trippier’s willingness to become the first arrival of the new era is instructive. Right-backs are rarely statement signings but in a way he is. He should be classed as one of his country’s most successful exports: by winning La Liga with Atletico Madrid’s underdogs and being a cornerstone of its most frugal defence, perhaps he ranks second only to Steve McManaman among English footballers in La Liga in the last three decades.

Well as Newcastle played against Manchester United, he looks far too good for this team. Trading Diego Simeone’s well-drilled rearguard – albeit more porous than usual this season – for Newcastle’s sometimes shambolic defence is a contrast.

Trippier could have been facing Barcelona and Real Madrid next season. Instead, he may line up against Barnsley and Rotherham. One of only 22 players to start for England in the final of a major international tournament is taking a risk ahead of the 2022 World Cup.

But if there have long been hints that Trippier was keen to return to his homeland, it is notable he was a target for Manchester United last year. In the summer, if not now, he could have attracted suitors higher up the table: indeed both United and his former club Tottenham could benefit from a crosser of his calibre at right-back.

For Newcastle, he represents a huge upgrade. Either in a back four or five, their right-sided defenders this season have been the winger Jacob Murphy, Javier Manquillo and Emil Krafth. A side with a solitary clean sheet this season have been particularly poor in both full-back positions.

Newcastle 1 Manchester United 1: player ratings

And yet, important as right-backs have become in recent years, footballing orthodoxy suggests Newcastle’s fate is likelier to rest on the spine of the side. Reinforcements are required. Callum Wilson’s calf injury leaves a desperate need for a goalscorer. A central midfielder might help. Centre-backs are an absolute must and Newcastle could do with securing two from a mooted list of targets that includes Sven Botman, James Tarkowski, Lloyd Kelly, Rob Holding, Nat Phillips and Joe Rodon.

For Eddie Howe, a reunion with a loyalist should offer a reminder a manager criticised for excessive spending at Bournemouth has a track record of transfer-market acumen: he signed a young Trippier for Burnley, initially on loan and then permanently, from Manchester City’s reserves. Howe has often been a talent spotter and now an initial £12 million ($16.2m) fee feels relatively cheap.

Trippier could have an added benefit. He brings kudos as well as quality delivery from the right. Perhaps his arrival will encourage others to believe in the Newcastle project, to back themselves to keep United up this season before they set their sights higher up the league. Or maybe he will have a release clause to ensure that Newcastle go down, he does not accompany them into the Championship. In the meantime, however, he is evidence of the pulling power Newcastle possess.

Updated: January 06, 2022, 2:59 AM