Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe has admitted that the club may be forced to sell winger Allan Saint-Maximin due to the pressures of Financial Fair Play (FFP).
The French winger, who is reported to be a £30 million target for Saudi Pro League side Al Ahli, was unavailable for Newcastle's 2-1 pre-season friendly victory at Scottish side Rangers on Tuesday.
And Howe revealed after the game that the player looks set for a move away from the Premier League club.
“He's in early discussions over a potential move away. That's why he wasn't here,” Howe said.
“It's doubtful he'll join us on the tour of America. I don't think Maxi necessarily wants to leave, but he may feel it's the right time for him to move.
“It's difficult for me to speak for him, but he hasn't asked to leave. There's been no issue between him and any of us coaches. We all love him.
“If he does leave, we'd lose him with a very heavy heart. He's someone we love working with, he's a difference-maker, we've really had a strong working relationship, and it'll be sad if he leaves.
“When I spoke to him on Monday, there was actually a lot of emotion between us,” Howe added. “I don't want to speak for Allan but when a player has done very well for you, which Allan has for me, I'm very grateful for every player that commits and gives their all for the team.”
Saint-Maximin joined the Magpies from Ligue 1 side Nice for £16.5 million in 2019 and quickly established himself as a cult figure with fans for his electric pace and dribbling skills.
But the 26-year-old struggled with injuries last campaign and regularly found himself watching from the substitute's bench as Newcastle secured a fourth-place finish and a place in the Champions League for the first time in 20 years.
The Tyneside club have spent more than £300 million since being taken over by a Saudi Arabian-led consortium in October 2021 and now have to consider selling players in order to comply with FFP spending restrictions.
They have already forked out around £60 million to bring in AC Milan and Italy midfielder Sandro Tonali this summer and are also strongly linked with a move for £40 million-rated Leicester City winger Harvey Barnes.
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But before any potential new signings can be made, players will have to be shipped out.
“Maxi is the player that's generating the interest,” said Howe. “FFP is a new dynamic which really came to the fore after my first window here when we knew it would impact us.
“Player trading is a key part of it – you can't hit it, if you don't trade. We're forced to trade a player this window.
“If the deal didn't go through, I'd be delighted. It would obviously impact our ability to bring any more players in, and then we potentially might have to sell another player. That's the way that Financial Fair Play has hit us.”
Tonali, meanwhile, made his first appearance the Magpies in Tuesday's victory in Scotland that saw Miguel Almiron and Harrison Ashby scoring Newcastle's goals that sandwiched a Sam Lammers finish for Rangers.
And his new manager was “very impressed” with the debut of the 23-year-old midfielder. “He brought everything I thought he would bring in that first 45 minutes,” Howe said.
“Calm, composed, technically high level, good relationships with the players around him.
“He looked at home in a black and white shirt so it was a great start for him.”