One constant accusation thrown at Newcastle United during Mike Ashley’s turbulent ownership was that the club were always searching for “the perfect deal” in the transfer market.
Several notable signings went elsewhere as the Magpies haggled their way out of eye-catching additions looking to save that extra penny with a frugal stance in a market that demanded a “speculate to accumulate” approach.
Fuelled by the success of bargain signings like Cheick Tiote and Yohan Cabaye, the club became obsessed with recruiting players with sell-on value, snubbing a number of experienced individuals that would have given balance and vital knowhow to United squads.
As such, it would be stating the obvious to suggest the signing of England and Atletico Madrid full-back Kieran Trippier would not have happened during Ashley’s ownership.
Signing a 31-year-old defender for a fee that could cost up to £15m would not meet the parameters set by the Sports Direct magnate, so there is some irony that the new owners have pulled off what can be viewed as the perfect deal for the circumstances the club currently finds itself in.
There is risk on both sides of any transfer, and several agents have suggested many potential January additions will see jeopardy in a move to Tyneside with the threat of relegation hanging over Eddie Howe’s side.
However, the Trippier deal works for all parties as the Three Lions defender gets a move back home that he desired and Newcastle get a player that meets almost every criteria they are looking for in a new addition.
Premier League experience
Trippier becomes the third right-sided defender to join United from Atletico in the last seven years after Jesus Gamez and Javier Manquillo swapped Madrid for the North East during that time.
Gamez, it would be safe to say, was a poor addition and there was little reaction when his underwhelming spell at St James Park came to an end with his release in June 2018.
Manquillo’s arrival was met with derision in some quarters but his previous Premier League experience with Liverpool and Sunderland helped him settle in at St James Park.
Trippier will need little time to adapt after becoming one of the most effective right wing-backs in the league during his time with Burnley and Spurs.
His form during loan and permanent spells with the Clarets led to a £4.4 million move to North London and he flourished under Mauricio Pochettino and helped Spurs reach the Champions League final during his last season at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
His experience of featuring in high-profile games for club and country will provide a valuable tool for Eddie Howe in the pressure-cooker environment of a Premier League relegation battle.
A squad upgrade
United currently possess three players that can function in a right-back or right wing-back role.
Javier Manquillo looked the most comfortable of trio with Jacob Murphy’s defensive ability being exposed and Emil Krafth failing to answer many questions that surrounded his arrival in the summer of 2019.
Newcastle have conceded 42 goals in 19 Premier League games this season - a total only matched by bottom of the league Norwich City - and heir solitary clean sheet came in the recent 1-0 home win against fellow strugglers Burnley.
Almost 67% of those goals have come in open play with United’s full-backs - or wing-backs depending on the formation adopted - exposed on a number of occasions throughout the campaign.
An expected xGA of 2.07 - compared to an xGF of 1.06 - shows there is much work to do for Howe and the Magpies boss will hope the defensive improvements Trippier made under Atleti manager Diego Simeone will rub off on his new team-mates.
Knowledge of Eddie Howe’s methods
This week marks the tenth anniversary of Trippier - then of Manchester City - joining Burnley in a permanent deal after impressing then-Clarets manager Eddie Howe during the first half of the 2011/12 season.
Upon completion of the permanent move, Howe told the club website: “He has been a really huge part of our team, how we have played this year.
“He has just got better and better and I can’t speak highly enough of him as a person and as a footballer.”
Across both loan and permanent spells at Turf Moor, Trippier featured 61 times under Howe, scoring four goals and providing an assist for a team-mate on average every 5.5 games.
The full-back remained with the Clarets following Howe’s departure in October 2012 and continued to flourish under his successor Sean Dyche before going on to star for Spurs, England and Atletico Madrid.
Being reunited with Howe over a decade after their first meeting and his familiarity with the United manager’s coaching methods will only aid his introduction to life on Tyneside.
Trippier’s journey from promising youngster at Manchester City to La Liga winner and Champions League finalist has seen him develop into a real leader.
His leadership qualities were recognised by England manager Gareth Southgate when he handed Trippier the captain’s armband for a Nations League fixture against Wales in October 2020.
He also led out the Three Lions in front of supporters for the first time in a World Cup qualifier in Andorra a year later and described his pride at such an honour.
After the latter of those two fixtures, he told a press conference: He said: “ As a player to captain your country is one of my best feelings, one of the proudest moments of my career.
“I can only thank Gareth for what he’s done for me on and off the pitch, and the trust that he has in me personally to name me captain. It’s a surreal moment.
“Hopefully I can follow that up with a win but I’m speechless, really, to captain my country and lead the boys out. You know obviously it’s something I’ll never ever forget.”
Trippier’s mentality and leadership also gained the respect of Atletico manager Diego Simeone and he spoke of his admiration for the 31-year-old as speculation over his possible move to Tyneside intensified earlier this week.
“We want him to stay, but you can’t force anyone to stay. An extraordinary player,” Simeone said following Sunday’s win over Rayo Vallecano.
“He is an extraordinary footballer that has given us a lot.
But as I have said, it depends on him. We hope that Trippier can stay but I don’t know if you can’t hold anyone back in life.”
With United’s current squad looking short on genuine leaders, the introduction of Trippier will be a welcome boost for Howe throughout the second half of the season and beyond.
No England supporter will ever forget where they were when Trippier curled a sumptuous free-kick over the Croatia wall to put the Three Lions in front in a World Cup semi-final four years ago.
Anything seemed possible after the Spurs wing-back picked the perfect moment to grab his first goal for his country.
Of course, it didn’t end well, but it did show the prowess Trippier possesses from set-pieces.
With an average of one goal a season throughout his career, the 31-year-old has hardly been prolific in front of goal, but he is more proficient in providing for his team-mates with 78 assists in 442 appearances - an average of one assist every 5.66 games.
That compares favourably with United’s top assist-maker this season, Allan Saint-Maximin, who has three assists in 20 games this season and fellow right-back Javier Manquillo, who have provided two assists in 13 games.
Newcastle’s set-piece record this season has shown signs of improvement with five of their 17 Premier League goals coming from a corner-kick or free-kick.
According to the Premier League website, one area for significant improvement is the Magpies’ crossing accuracy with just under a quarter of their 301 crosses finding a United team-mate.
Trippier’s arrival will surely see the England star become United’s go-to man for set-pieces in the not-too-distant future.
A catalyst for further high-profile additions
Trippier has been the subject of reported interest from Champions League holders Chelsea and 13-time Premier League winners Manchester United over the last 12 months.
So the derision that met Newcastle’s report interest in the England star was, perhaps, understandable given their current position in the bottom three of the Premier League.
However, in securing his signing, the Magpies hierarchy have shown their ambition to not just preserve their top-flight status, but to put in place a squad capable of pushing into the top half of the table.
The signing of Trippier - a La Liga champion, Euro 2020 finalist and Champions League finalist in the last four years - can be used as a bargaining chip when other high-profile signings are approached.
That’s not to suggest one eye-catching signing means the United owners will suddenly find life easier as they look to further strengthen Eddie Howe’s ranks this month.
But Trippier is a statement signing and a signal of intent after he was persuaded to forego an opportunity to play a part in Atletico’s ongoing Champions League run to join the Magpies’ bid to avoid demotion into the Championship.
It seems United’s ambitious owners have managed to pull off “the perfect deal” in what will surely be the first of many moves in the transfer market.