The Hard Tackle lists three players Newcastle United should target as Hugo Ekitike alternatives, as the Magpies pull the plug on the deal for the French striker.

After an incredibly successful January transfer window, which saw the likes of Bruno Guimaraes, Kieran Trippier, and Dan Burn come through the door and completely transform the club’s fortunes from relegation fodder to top-ten hopefuls, Newcastle United have been looking for something similar this time around and have made a solid start to the summer.

The Magpies have spent their transfer pot sensibly by signing proven Premier League players in Nick Pope and Matt Targett for reasonable fees. Newcastle have now also confirmed the blockbuster arrival of highly-rated Dutch central defender Sven Botman after a long-drawn saga, beating off Serie A giants AC Milan for his signature as their first major statement of this summer.

Having shored up the backline, Eddie Howe is likely to turn his attention towards bolstering other areas of the squad, with a new striker being near the top of the Newcastle manager’s summer wishlist. Joelinton (four), Chris Wood (two) and Dwight Gayle (zero) scored fewer goals between them than the highest scorer, Callum Wilson, who spent more than four months out of action with an injury.

With Wilson firmly established as Newcastle’s first-choice centre-forward when fit, the Magpies are scouring for a younger profile with a high ceiling who will not only develop alongside an experienced strike force but also compete with their talismanic striker right now.

To that end, the Magpies had already reached an agreement with Reims for Ekitike earlier this month, with a £25.6 million fee mooted around, but have been unable to get a deal over the line. While personal terms were not thought to be a concern for the 20-year-old, reports stated that Newcastle had grown increasingly frustrated with Ekitike’s representatives’ ‘ridiculous’ demands, wanting additional fees and assurances of payments.

That, coupled with his agents continuing to offer him around Europe, as well as brewing interest from PSG and Bayern Munich, suggests that the move is all but dead. Ekitike turned down the opportunity to move to Tyneside in January, believing it was best to continue his progression with Reims during the second half of last season.

While Newcastle have re-entered negotiations for their top target this summer, the striker remains unsure about signing a long-term contract at St. James’ Park. Newcastle’s new owners are adamant they will not be held to ransom by selling clubs, despite their status as the ‘richest club in the world’ and appear to be ready to walk away from the Ekitike deal.

It is a disappointing development from Newcastle’s perspective as they have invested a lot of time chasing the young forward. But it seems the 20-year-old’s head has been turned after PSG and Bayern were alerted to his potential, although he would have got more minutes at Newcastle than the touted big clubs.

Newcastle’s perseverance and tenacity in the Botman deal paid off as they pipped Serie A champions AC Milan to the Dutchman’s signature. But with Ekitike’s agent continually shifting the goalposts in terms of wages and other fees, it might be worthwhile for Newcastle to look elsewhere. And with that in mind, The Hard Tackle looks at three options for the Magpies to consider after setting their sights away from Ekitike.

Armando Broja

The first name on our list features a player who burst onto the scene only last season and has been tremendously growing in stature in the English top-flight. It is the familiar name of Chelsea’s 20-year-old striking prodigy, Armando Broja, who has just enjoyed a standout season for Southampton on loan from the Blues.

Of course, Newcastle’s interest in Albanian striker Broja is nothing new. Only several days ago, it was reported that Newcastle had made an approach to Chelsea over the availability of the striker, who could cost upwards of £30 million.

However, having shown extremely promising signs in his breakout Premier League season, it is hard to argue that he would not be a success at St. James’ Park if Newcastle do manage to beat off stiff competition from West Ham United to secure his signature.

Broja spent the 2020/21 season in the Eredivisie, where he finished the campaign as Vitesse’s joint-top scorer with ten goals to his name. That feat came in just 30 games, which was the youngster’s first season in senior football. The Albanian international then backed that up by scoring nine goals in 38 appearances across all boards while on loan at Southampton last season.

Supreme aerial ability and strong link-up play are noted as some of the key attributes of his game. Although he is a tall striker, Broja is deceptively quick for someone of his size. He is devastating in exploiting spaces with his searing runs, but he seems to be more than just a powerful, physical presence. While the Chelsea forward needs to work on his play with his back to goal, the versatile striker’s biggest asset is his ability to strike cleanly and powerfully with both feet.

His mediocre return of just six goals in 33 league games suggests he is still very raw and developing, but he will only get better with more experience under his belt. Wilson is likely to remain central to Howe’s plans moving forward following an impressive return from injury.

So, Newcastle can afford to have Broja develop into a prolific striker over time. Until then, the Chelsea academy product can offer Howe another good goalscoring option or an impact striker off the bench, since no player in the Newcastle squad scored more than five league goals last season, barring Wilson.

Amine Gouiri

Despite being just 22 years old, OGC Nice striker Amine Gouiri is already being heralded as one of the superstars of the future and is currently one of the hottest attacking commodities in world football.

With French youth stars like Kylian Mbappe, Christopher Nkunku, and Moussa Diaby gaining a lot of traction right now across Europe for their tremendous goalscoring exploits in the recent past, it is high time that the supremely gifted and exciting young French striker Amine Gouiri is mentioned in the same breath.

Last season, the 22-year-old bagged 12 goals and ten assists in 43 appearances in all competitions and showed his ball progression and passing capabilities as well by ranking in the 88th percentile for pass completion, 95th for progressive carries, and 93rd for dribbles completed compared to other centre-forwards in Europe’s top five leagues.

This was his second season in the French top flight, demonstrating that he is beginning to regularly showcase his immense talent as a striker. Gouiri made no fewer than 24 direct goal contributions (16 goals, eight assists) for Nice in his debut season. But this past season, he was converted into more of a facilitator under the influence of Christopher Galtier.

Dubbed as the ‘new Karim Benzema’, he is not a traditional, out-and-out striker like Robert Lewandowski or Erling Haaland; Gouiri is more of a Roberto Firmino-esque striker, but one who consistently finds the back of the net. The Lyon academy product is particularly good at creating threats and churning out high-quality chances for his teammates, creating a whopping 12 big chances in Ligue 1 last term.

He is very good at coming down between the lines to receive the ball, utilising his ball control, technical flair, physicality and pace to drive with aggression to go deep and create a threat for the opposition defence.

So, in essence, Gouiri could even be an upgrade on Ekitike for Newcastle, given the 22-year-old has shown that he can be a consistent scorer over a longer stretch and has more experience under his belt than the Reims striker, who only enjoyed his breakout campaign last term and could prove to be a risk.

A technically-gifted player with an exceptional first touch, Gouiri could be a real hit at St. James’ Park. The best part is his versatility to comfortably operate across the frontline, but he typically played in a front two at Nice, suggesting he could even form a potent strike partnership with Newcastle’s other strikers in Wilson and Chris Wood.

That said, the 22-year-old is under contract until 2024 and is rated at £37.8 million by Transfermarkt. So, he would not come for cheap by any means, but considering his age profile and huge upside, he could be a smart investment that is worthwhile in the long run if Newcastle do manage to lure him to Tyneside.

Gianluca Scamacca

We head over to Italy for the last name on our list, but this striker might not come as a surprise to many. After all, several high-profile Serie A strikers, including Victor Osimhen, Duvan Zapata, and Lautaro Martinez, have been linked with Newcastle United previously. This said striker is none other than Sassuolo star, Gianluca Scamacca. A traditional number nine, Scamacca is not an out-and-out alternative for Ektike in terms of style.

Scamacca has been projected for stardom since his youth days with AS Roma. Dubbed as ‘the next Zlatan Ibrahimovic’ thanks to his physical stature, technical qualities, and obsession with tattoos, he has had an unusual route to senior football and has mostly featured in mid-table or lower mid-table clubs spanning Serie A and B.

The Italian international showed flashes of brilliance at Genoa in 2020/21, netting 12 times in 29 outings across all competitions. However, the 23-year-old truly came to the fore this past season, bursting onto the scene in Serie A with Sassuolo, scoring 16 goals in 36 Serie A games.

Standing at 6ft 5in, the towering forward boasts a physical build and commanding aerial prowess that means he would have no problem adjusting to the physical nature of the Premier League. But crucially, he is still technically very sound, very similar to Ibrahimovic, who also happens to be his footballing idol.

The thought of Kieran Trippier whipping in crosses from the right flank into Scamacca is a mouthwatering prospect for the Newcastle fans. Usually deputised on free-kicks for the Neroverdi, Scamacca has an interesting shooting technique; a deadly combination of power and precision, as displayed in the clip below.

These are not isolated instances; he is frequently spotted attempting to pull it off from ridiculous ranges and angles, catching the keeper off guard. At 23 years old, the frontman has plenty of time to polish his all-around game, but his ability outside the box is nothing to be sniffed at. In fact, Scamacca is actually a much more versatile player than people think, with excellent ball retention, hold-up play and defensive work.

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He is a willing runner who can work in the channels or drop deeper and out wide in order to receive the ball at his feet before creating something out of nothing with his venomous drive. One criticism of the Italian international is that a good percentage of his shots come from outside the box, which is obviously the reason why he has massively overperformed his expected goal numbers (16 actual goals from just 11.13 xG).

On the brighter side, If Scamacca does go on a long-range scoring streak, defenders will be afraid to afford him any space as he has the potency to punish that, which will in turn create more attacking spaces to exploit, in Newcastle’s case, for the likes of Allan Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson.

Eddie Howe has shown a tendency to utilise a tall centre-forward in his systems in the past, so signing another one for Newcastle is not completely out of the question. One issue for the Magpies may be that Scamacca’s preference is to stay in Italy and move to one of Serie A’s top guns, with AC Milan, Inter Milan, and Juventus interested in him.

However, none of the Italian clubs are ready to match the Neroverdi’s €45 million asking price for the 23-year-old and are looking at other targets, which has left the door open for outside suitors, including Newcastle, to try and lure the Italian hitman. But then reports are coming out that PSG have also expressed some strong interest in Scamacca to add to the already stiff competition.

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