STEVE BRUCE has been in management long enough to know that agents of overseas players like to use international breaks to put their clients in the shop window. With that in mind, the fact Miguel Almiron’s representative, Daniel Campos, has been vocally touting the Newcastle United forward for a possible summer move to either Atletico Madrid or Inter Milan would not normally cause too much concern.

When it comes to Almiron though, and when it comes to the detail of what Campos has been saying in the last few days, Bruce might have cause to be slightly more worried than would normally be the case. At the very least, the atmosphere will no doubt be tense when the pair cross paths at Newcastle’s Little Benton training base this morning.

Bruce’s biggest concern over Almiron will be that any decision over the Paraguayan’s future could be taken out of his hands. The forward’s representatives have consistently claimed that his contract contains a buyout clause that an interested party could trigger in either January or the summer, and while Newcastle officials have refused to confirm those comments, the fact they have not formally denied them either speaks volumes.

It is understood the buyout clause is at a level that would guarantee Newcastle a substantial profit were Almiron to move on, but that will be of little solace to Bruce if he was to lose one of his key attackers at a time when it is far from clear whether Mike Ashley would be willing to reinvest any money back into the playing squad.

Newcastle lost Ayoze Perez to Leicester City in similar circumstances, and while it can be argued £30m was an extremely fair price for the Spaniard, the current climate would almost certainly make it much tougher for the Magpies to replace Almiron if he was to move on.

“I think that if it wasn’t for the pandemic, he (Almiron) would’ve been playing in a different team,” said Campos, in an interview with a South American radio station. “I was able to come into contact with their (Atletico Madrid) coaching staff and they told me that they were interested and just scouting him, but never in the position to make an offer.

“I think in the future, it’s possible, why not? There are also big teams in England which are inquiring about him and we talk. I have no doubt he will leave – I think it will happen soon, perhaps (next) June because this year, everything was disorganised on the transfers due to the pandemic.”

Agent talk, or the first act in a playbook that will end with Almiron leaving next summer? Time will tell.

Campos’ interview did not just feature links with potential future employers, Almiron’s representative also aimed a few choice barbs at Bruce’s playing style, comments that will have stung the Newcastle manager given the flak he has received from supporters and pundits on a similar theme already this season.

“Obviously, he (Almiron) would like to play at a bigger club with more possession,” said Campos. “If it was a team with much more movement and possession, Miguel would’ve showcased more.”

Bruce has built a defence of his playing style around the fact that his players have bought in to what he is doing and support it. Campos’ comments suggest that when it comes to Almiron at least, the opposite is true.

That is damaging as it feeds in to a narrative that suggests Bruce is wasting Newcastle’s most creative players by failing to play to their strengths. Disgruntled fans have latched on to Campos’ comments as proof that a change of direction is needed. Bruce will continue to resist. But his task of winning over the doubters has become even tougher thanks to Almiron’s alleged unease.