NEWCASTLE UNITED are focusing attentions on Portugal this summer after a run of form which has exposed a lack of depth in the squad many feared would prove costly at the start of the season.
While the pressure on manager Alan Pardew’s shoulders has grown from the stands following five consecutive defeats in a row in the Premier League, there have been discussions behind the scenes aimed at the close season.
There will be a push to bring in some established names from the English game to add much-needed experience to the squad, but the cheaper European market is still being scoured by chief scout Graham Carr.
Over the last few years he has had success in recruiting from both France and Holland, but it is understood there are others under consideration from other countries in the hope of gaining value for money.
Having been constantly given mixed messages over the likes of Montpellier’s Remy Cabella and Lyon’s Clement Grenier, Newcastle are exploring alternatives to the sought after playmaker and the Portuguese league has thrown up a couple of potential signings.
As well as keeping tabs on Sporting Lisbon’s Spanish winger Diego Capel, Benfica’s exciting midfielder Filip Djuricic is on the radar again having previously tried to land him following the sale of Yohan Cabaye in January.
Djuricic, 22, first caught the eye of Carr when he impressed playing for Heerenveen. He only left the Dutch club last summer in a £5m deal having scored 26 goals in 111 matches.
Benfica boss Jorge Jesus has played him sparingly in his preferred central midfield position and he has become unsettled, so his name has been floated around a number of European clubs.
The Serbian is understood to be open to the idea of playing in England and Newcastle’s move for him earlier this year means the Magpies are one of the front-runners again – and probably for less than the £5m initially quoted.
Newcastle will be relieved when the season is over. The losing streak – the worst in the club’s Premier League history – has led to many disgruntled fans turning the spotlight on Pardew after years of targeting owner Mike Ashley.
Supporters want to see the cash raised from the reputed £20m sale of Cabaye reinvested in the squad during the close season, fearing Newcastle face a season of relegation struggle if they fail to do so.
Newcastle have nose-dived since Cabaye’s departure and, with top scorer Loic Remy also unlikely to be around next season at the end of his loan from QPR, Pardew’s squad is in desperate need of reinforcements.
Long-serving striker Shola Ameobi, whose contract is also up for renewal, has admitted the squad is well aware that there has been a shortage in numbers when injuries and suspensions have hit.
“We have limited resources at the moment and when we lose one or two key players it hurts the team badly,” said Ameobi. “But that is what the manager has had to put up with unfortunately.
“That is something the club have to put right for next season. We need quality players and we need a quality squad as well.
“This has been brought out to a lot of people but we, as players, knew that. I think the fans are getting to see that now.”
The need to bring in an extra creative verve is only likely to increase if Pardew manages to move on Hatem Ben Arfa. The Newcastle boss would like to offload the Frenchman in the summer if a suitable deal can be done.
There have been disagreements behind-the-scenes between the pair, with Pardew and the coaching staff unhappy at the work-rate and attitude of the player.
Ameobi, speaking to BBC Newcastle, said: “It’s been a tough month and a half for us. There have been a few frictions in there, which you get in every dressing room. But we’re all trying to pull in the same direction, players and staff.”