Christian Atsu was tipped for a move away from English Premier League side Newcastle United on deadline day but the Ghanaian international has decided to remain on Tyneside to fight for his place in Newcastle’s squad.
How did a potential move come about?
Steve Bruce has done a solid job with Newcastle since replacing Rafa Benitez in the summer and it looked unlikely that any players would be shown the door given the fact their squad has been somewhat depleted through injury.
Two injuries in particular – to left sided players Paul Dummett and Jetro Willems – should have paved a way for Atsu to have a run in the side but Bruce opted to dip into the market and recruited full back Danny Rose from Tottenham on a loan deal through to the end of the season.
The arrival of Rose triggered rumours of Atsu being surplus to requirements at St James’ Park and a few sides expressed an interest.
How close did a move come?
From what we understand, not very if truth be known. It’s believed Scottish champions Celtic and Championship club Nottingham Forest both made firm enquiries regarding temporary moves whilst another Championship side – Blackburn Rovers – were said to be interested.
A move to England’s second tier always seemed unlikely for a player of Atsu’s quality but a move to Scotland wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility given the financial clout Celtic have and the fact they’re still in the Europa League. Newcastle were willing to allow the move to materialise but the ex-Chelsea winger rebuffed the chance to join Neil Lennon’s set up instead displaying great desire to get into Toon XI and help them secure survival in the Premier League.
Atsu’s season so far
Atsu was absent from the Newcastle squad for the first couple of matches of the season but back to back defeats saw him called back in and he played a staring role in their shock win over Tottenham where he picked up an assist for Joelinton’s winner. He then played all but eight minutes of the next four matches, during which time Newcastle took just two points, before his game time slipped away to fleeting appearances.
The cup competitions have given Atsu a chance to get minutes in his legs but he’s only managed a total of 733 minutes of league action giving him an average of just 40 minutes per game; all in all he’s made 22 appearances (four in the cups) and contributed zero goals and four assists.
What does the remainder of the season hold in store?
The decision to turn down a move in favour of backing his ability at Premier League level will undoubtedly impress a manager with Bruce’s philosophy at heart so, although he was happy to let Atsu leave, his Newcastle chapter is by no means over.
The challenge that lays in wait for Atsu is getting past either Rose or Allan Saint-Maximin who has just returned from a hamstring injury. If he doesn’t get a lucky break then, as evidenced to this point, an extended run might be hard to come by.
That said, if he can produce a moment or two of quality – which he is more than capable of – then it could see him keep Newcastle up and that will endear him to the Toon’s hearts. The Ghana winger still has enough pace to rival a stallion in the Kentucky Derby odds and he can definitely challenge the league defenders with his skill set.
And in the summer?
Assuming Newcastle are in the topflight next season then it’s hard to see Bruce not signing players who will push Atsu further down the pecking order. For the player, there is no way he’ll want to be a bit part player with an African Cup of Nations looming so it’s a question of where he goes.
The talent is there and it’s just the consistency that is lacking so it’s hard to see him wanting to drop into a lower level of the English game. At 28, a move overseas looks more likely and we could see him going to the US for a handsome pay day and regular soccer – perhaps he’ll even be the next face of David Beckham’s Inter Miami.