Leicester City midfielder James Maddison made his final St James’ Park audition on Monday night ahead of the summer transfer window.
The England international was part of the Foxes’ team that earned a goalless draw to take their Premier League survival fight to the final day, although there were question marks over Maddison’s role.
Interim boss Dean Smith surprisingly dropped both Maddison and Harvey Barnes in favour of fielding five defenders, a decision he was forced to defend.
“We decided to change it,” Smith told Sky Sports. “We need to be harder to beat. The last couple of games, we have needed lots of goals to win them so we needed to make a change. We picked a team we feel can compete.
“I had to think long and hard about it. Watching the (Newcastle) game against Brighton, the first two goals are from set-pieces and I wanted another centre-back in the team.
“They (Barnes and Maddison) were professional about it. I want them to be disappointed if they’re not playing but they see the bigger picture and understand why.”
Maddison was introduced at half-time, as was Barnes on the hour-mark. Maddison endured a fairly quiet evening, although did almost claim a late assist when Nick Pope superbly kept out Timothy Castagne’s effort in stoppage time.
With the 26-year-old expected to leave Leicester at the end of the campaign, regardless of what division they’re in, time will if the player’s next visit to St James’ Park is in black and white, or opposition colours.
Eddie Howe’s side had two bids rejected for Maddison, whose contract expires in 2024, last summer and still retain an interest.
Whether United reignite negotiations, however, remains to be seen after sealing Champions League qualification. Newcastle are also unsure if Maddison wants a move to Tyneside as Arsenal reportedly weigh up a move for the former Norwich City man.
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