Newcastle's French contacts have seen them push ahead in the race for the midfield enforcer... here's a few others they could try and sign from around Europe...
Moussa Sissoko (Toulouse)
A regular name in the gossip columns, Sissoko has seemingly been linked with half of Europe since breaking on to the scene at Toulouse in 2007. His form dropped off a bit last season, and with him regularly coming out and publicly claiming he wants to leave it seems his head isn’t in the right place. However, he has all the tools to become an exceptional midfielder and at 23 has plenty of time to fine tune his game. His game is suited to the Premier League, and with Arsenal, Liverpool and Newcastle all linked with him, don’t be surprised to see him plying his trade in England next season.
Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow)
The Japanese midfielder impressed at the World Cup in South Africa, and since then has impressed for CSKA in the Champions League. His ability to score and create goals from midfield, and, of course, his marketability in Asia, makes him an attractive prospect. Still in his mid-twenties, he’s one of the more desirable names that will become a free agent next year. Linked with all of the big clubs in England at some stage, he is likely to be on an extravagant wage in Russia and will command a similar contract should he decide to move.
Fernando Llorente (Athletic Bilbao)
Perhaps the hottest commodity on free agency, the Bilbao frontman has been linked with a move away from the San Mamés for the last few years and will no doubt have a plethora of offers from Europe’s elite to choose from come January. Llorente has been in fine form over the last four years and is one the most productive target man around – although he has much more to his game than just a direct aerial threat. Whilst he’s in his late twenties he still has plenty of football left in him, and should finally have the chance to compete in the Champions League come next season.
Douglas (FC Twente)
The Brazilian born centre-back is yet to make his mark at international level, and, having recently gained Dutch citizenship, he may find himself becoming a regular for Holland rather than his homeland. The towering defender has developed well in Holland and has been one of Steve McClaren’s most consistent players. He was close to joining Fulham last summer, and at 24 he is ready for a move to one of the bigger leagues. He’s likely to be one of the more affordable free agents out there, and with the current financial climate hitting many teams extremely hard, is likely to spark a real battle to secure his signature.
Zdravko Kuzmanovic (Stuttgart)
A personal favourite of mine, Kuzmanovic is one of the most underrated midfielders in Europe. Stuttgart have struggled in recent years, so his performances have not been given the credit they deserve, but his all around game is superb and he has plenty of experience for both club and country. He played for Fiorentina before moving to Germany, and has since been linked with a return to Italy, but he definitely has the talent and stature to adapt to the English game. Still only 25, he’ll be a bargain for whoever picks him up next season.
Juan Manuel Vargas (Fiorentina, On Loan At Genoa)
The Peruvian winger performed extremely well for Cesare Prandelli in Florence, but struggled under Siniša Mihajlovic and then Delio Rossi, and was shipped out to Genoa on loan by Vicenzo Montella this season. His attitude is suspect, but his talent is not, and on a free transfer will be an attractive prospect for clubs who need to improve in the wide positions. He has long been linked with Liverpool, but doesn’t appear to fit Rodgers’ criteria for a winger. A QPR signing if ever there was one, if he doesn’t end up at a mid-level Premiership side he’ll no doubt head for the oil rich lands of Eastern Europe.
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (Montpellier)
The rangy centre-back was an integral part of the Montpelier side beat all the odds to win their first ever Ligue 1 title last season. Tall, strong, incredibly quick and comfortable playing right across the backline, his performances alerted several sides to take a closer look at him. A move to Milan fell through in the summer, and Arsenal, Liverpool and Newcastle have all registered their interest in him. Whilst both he and MHSC have endured a sluggish start to the season as they attempt to adapt to playing in Europe, he’s still young, and has proven his ability to go toe-to-toe with the big boys.