EDDIE HOWE has admitted it will be “impossible” to secure a like-for-like replacement for Allan Saint-Maximin if the Frenchman completes his departure from Newcastle United.

Saint-Maximin is currently involved in discussions over a proposed move to Saudi Arabian side Al-Ahli, and was not part of the Magpies squad that flew to the United States yesterday ahead of the Premier League Summer Series.

While a fee is still be agreed for the 26-year-old, it is anticipated that he will complete his move to the Middle East in the next couple of days for an initial fee of around £30m.

His departure will make it easier for Newcastle to make further additions this summer and remain within the financial parameters established by the Premier League’s Financial Fair Play regulations, and has already hastened the arrival of Harvey Barnes.

Newcastle have held a series of talks with Leicester officials over Barnes, and finally achieved a breakthrough last night when they agreed a fee of around £38m for the 25-year-old midfielder.

Barnes can play in the same wide-attacking role on the left that Saint-Maximin has filled for the majority of his Magpies career, but boasts a markedly different skill-set to the player he would be replacing.

Indeed, while Howe has begrudgingly accepted the need to move Saint-Maximin on this summer, he also admits Newcastle will be losing a unique attacking asset.

“You can’t replace Allan with a similar type of player,” admitted Howe, who is hoping Joelinton can resolve the complications with his visa that prevented him from flying to the United States yesterday. “You can’t do that because there’s no one like him out there.


“People talk about how industrious he is, but in his way, Allan is really committed to what we want him to do. Last season was difficult for him because he picked up a couple of injuries, so I don’t think we saw the very best of him. Maybe the Manchester City game showed what Maxi could be for us on a regular basis. But no one’s doubting his talent.

“Allan is a unique player. I’m sure I’ll never coach someone like him again. He can do things that no one else can do, and he does give us a totally different dimension and something that we don’t want to lose. But we may have to face that.”

Howe has consistently stated that he would like to keep Saint-Maximin on Tyneside, but if the Frenchman was not to leave, Newcastle would struggle to make further additions this summer after already spending around £55m on Sandro Tonali.

As well as targeting Barnes, Howe would also like to sign a full-back and centre-half to provide additional defensive cover, with Southampton’s Tino Livramento still a live target.

The Newcastle hierarchy are determined not to breach Financial Fair Play rules, even though a number of other Premier League clubs appear to be sailing close to the wind with their spending this summer.

“I wouldn’t say this is being forced upon us, but I think Financial Fair Play forces that to a degree,” said Howe. “We could make a stance to not sell Maxi, but then we’d be in a position where we wouldn’t have been able to recruit Sandro or any other player.

“Our hands would have been tied. We knew this summer that the likelihood was that we would have to sell a player to trade, and that is what looks like it will happen. But until it’s done, we don’t know.”

There were suggestions last season that the relationship between Howe and Saint-Maximin had become strained, with questions over the Frenchman’s work-rate keeping him out of the first team, but the Magpies head coach insists that was never the case.

“When I spoke to him (on Monday), there was a lot of emotion between us,” said Howe. “I don’t want to speak for Allan, but hopefully there’s a lot of mutual respect. I think when a player has done very well for you, which Allan has for me, then you’re always very grateful for every player that commits and gives their all for the team.

“We’ve had conversations together and I respect him immensely. I hope he feels the same about me. I know he feels the same about the football club. There’s been no issue between us – we’ve had a really healthy relationship from day one - but sometimes these things have to happen for the club to grow, and for Allan to experience something different.”