Newcastle United FC – Recruitment Analysis – Part Three

Right Back

Right back is another position in which Newcastle United could look to strengthen. Manquillo provides a solid option, however, the drop off in quality and consistency is quite significant when looking past him. Although Krafth is a decent cover option, he is yet to really demonstrate that he possesses the ability to regularly feature at this level. Whilst Yedlin was once a mainstay in the starting eleven, a drop in form combined with injuries has seen him slip down the pecking order, and with his contract due to run out in June 2021, it could well be that his days on Tyneside are numbered. 

Therefore a relatively young right back option who could provide competititon for, or surpass Manquillo would be a big improvement to the team.

The Targets

Option One: Zeki Çelik

  • Nationality: Turkish
  • Age: 23
  • Date of birth: 17/02/1997
  • Current Club: Lille OSC
  • Career: Bursaspor, Karacabeyspor (L), Istanbulspor, Lille OSC
  • Position: Right Back
  • Secondary Position: Right Midfield
  • Preferred foot: Right
  • Contract Ends: 30/06/2023 (Summer 2023)
  • Estimated Cost: £15 000 000 – £20 000 000

Zeki Çelik would be an outstanding signing by the Newcastle recruitment team. The Turkish international is an excellent talent, who has excelled over recent years with Lille. Çelik is highly rated across Europe and as a result would likely command a fairly hefty price tag as well as being the target of several high profile clubs from across Europe. However, French football finds itself in somewhat of a financial crisis at the moment, and Lille are no exception to this, with a recent change in ownership and hierarchy taking place. Therefore, despite a player of Çelik’s quality normally commanding a high fee, the current issues faced by French clubs in general could mean he may be available at a discount, and even though Çelik moving to Tyneside remains unlikely, it perhaps seems more viable than normal. 

Çelik is strong and a powerful runner which would allow him to compete adequately in physical battles, and, standing at 5’11, he is capable of holding his won aerially when required. Often, Lille’s primary focus is defensive, and they seek to make themselves hard to break down before hitting teams on the break, so in this regard, the right back would be suited to Newcastle’s style of play whilst providing more quality when going forward. Furthermore, his current side often line up in a 4-4-2 system, so Çelik is comfortable playing in a back four and providing support to a winger ahead of him. 

The 23 year old is comfortable in possession, happy to venture forward and carry the ball out of defence to put his team on the front foot. He is capable of taking on opponents but when confronted by an opposition player, he prefers to retain possession and looks to find a pass. He is capable of just providing a solid defensive option, however, he can be effective in the final third as well and is happy to drive forward and pick out passes to teammates, making runs beyond the winger before trying to find cut backs. Çelik commits to challenges well and rarely shies away from a tackle, whilst he is brave in the air and uses his physique well to compete aerially and dominate wingers. 

The Turkish international would be an excellent acquisition, however, as mentioned earlier, Newcastle would likely face very stiff competition, and despite the state of the French market, Çelik may still be outside of Newcastle’s probable price range. Furthermore, Çelik is his club’s first choice right back and though their financial situation remains uncertain, they will be keen to try and retain their best talents. 

Option Two: Kevin Mbabu

  • Nationality: Swiss
  • Age: 25
  • Date of birth: 19/04/1995
  • Current Club: VFL Wolfsburg
  • Career: Servette, Newcastle United, Rangers (L), Young Boys, VFL Wolfsburg
  • Position: Right Back
  • Secondary Position: Centre Back / Left Back
  • Preferred foot: Left
  • Contract Ends: 30/06/2023 (Summer 2023)
  • Estimated Cost: £10 000 000 – £15 000 000

Former Newcastle man Kevin Mbabu would be another impressive signing, should the club be able to tempt him into a return to Tyneside. The 25 year old joined Bundesliga side VFL Wolfsburg in the summer of 2019, having impressed during his return to Switzerland with Young Boys, and was a regular in the side last season before a long term injury brought his progress to a sudden pause. However, he looked back to his best upon his return from injury in December 2020 and would be an excellent addition to the squad. 

The right back admitted that he was not ready for the Premier League when he first joined Newcastle at the age of 18, but he has since come on leaps and bounds, becoming a full Swiss international and playing regular football at a top level. Furthermore, he has previously shown a desire to one day retun to the Premier league, and having had a history with Newcastle, he may possibly want to come and prove himself in England’s top tier with the club who first signed him back in 2013. 

Mbabu is a player who loves to get forward and cause problems for the opposition defence, and is very much a proactive defender, looking to play on the front foot and allow his opponent little time in possession. For Wolfsburg he has been known to bomb down the right flank, providing width and creating overloads in dangerous areas. He has quality and composure on the ball, and his link up play is to the level that he could really add an extra dimension to Newcastle’s attack. However, perhaps at times he may need to take fewer risks in possession in certain areas of the pitch should he rejoin the Magpies. 

Defensively, Mbabu ranks highly in tackle success and successful tackles p90 when compared with the other possible candidates for the role, whilst ranking near the top in almost all the offensive statistics used as well. It is clear to see that Mbabu is physically capable of playing in the Premier League, standing at six foot and with a strong build, whilst he has also demonstrated that he possesses a good turn of pace when required. Positionally, he should be careful not to get caught too high up the pitch at times, but he is capable of making impressive recovery tackles and is also solid in the air when called upon. He also cuts a composed figure when defending in his own box, being decisive but not panicking. 

Mbabu has operated as a right back in a back four, a centre back in a back three and a wing back at different points throughout the last couple of seasons, making him a fairly versatile option. This could be very useful for a Newcastle team that as it stands seems to lack some sort of identity, as Mbabu could be deployed in a back four or five and slot in comfortably should it be required. Possibly the main struggle for the right back would be his ability to adapt to the back foot, defensive style of football that Newcastle currently seem to adopt. Whereas at Wolfsburg he is often encouraged to get forward, at Newcastle he would be required to do more defending than attacking. However, his defensive strength and attacking willingness mean he would be capable of slotting into any system fairly comfortably. 

Last summer, Wolfsburg brought in right back Ridle Baku from Mainz, meaning means that they currently have three first team quality right backs in Baku, William and Mbabu on their books. Consequently, it may be the case that they are willing to let one of the three leave the club as they will be unable to give all of them consistent first team football. Therefore, if Newcastle were to submit a bid for Mbabu, and should he wish to return to Tyneside, Wolfsburg could be more willing to complete a deal. 

Option Three: Fabien Centonze

  • Nationality: French
  • Age: 24
  • Date of birth: 16/01/1996
  • Current Club: FC Metz
  • Career: Evian, Clermont Foot, RC Lens, FC Metz
  • Position: Right Back
  • Secondary Position: Left Back / Right Midfield
  • Preferred foot: Right
  • Contract Ends: 30/06/2024 (Summer 2024)
  • Estimated Cost: £5 000 000 – £9 000 000

Fabien Centonze would be a shrewd signing for Newcastle United. The French defender currently plies his trade in Ligue 1 with FC Metz for whom he has played regularly since joining in the summer of 2019 from RC Lens. His performances have begun to raise eyebrows across Europe, whilst his young age, versatility and relatively low price tag also make him an appealing option for many clubs. 

The right back has operated as both a full back and wing back, and his willingness to work hard and get forward make him a real threat down the right hand side. He is capable of linking up effectively in wide areas and times his runs well to provide width and get in behind the opposition before delivering a cross or cut back. Centonze is an intelligent footballer who shows a good understanding of when to tuck in or drift wide and when to venture forward or stay back. He is positive when receiving the ball high up the pitch and looks to pass or drive forward whenever possible. 

Physically, Centonze is fairly average, the six foot right back has a slim to medium build, and is able to hold his ground in terms of pace but is not outstanding. He should be careful not to get caught too square to his man at the back post, and could perhaps show better awareness of where the opposition forward is. Centonze excels in one v one defending, showing great patience and restraint to bide his time and not dive in before deciding when to challenge for the ball. 

He delays the ball carrier effectively, and reads body language well to prevent his opponent getting past. Another area in which Centonze is effective is his reading of the game, as although his awareness of opponents is average, his defensive positioning is effective and he pre-empts passes well to pick off loose balls and make vital interventions, whilst he attacks the ball well and shows good composure and decisiveness in his own penalty area. 

Centonze would provide a good level of competition for Manquillo and depending on how well he settles and adapts to the Premeir League, could establish himself as the team’s starting right back. At 24, he has plenty of time to improve and settle and would likely provide a more consistent upgrade on the likes of Yedlin and Krafth. 

Other Possibilities: 

Other possible Right Back options for the Toon Army (based upon my research or possible rumours) include:

  • Ronaël Pierre-Gabriel (Stade Brest 29 (On loan from FSV Mainz 05) – 22)
  • Pol Lirola (ACF Fiorentina – 23 –> Has since joined Olympique Marseille in January 2021)
  • Denzel Dumfries ( PSV – 24)

This concludes part three of this recruitment analysis series on Newcastle United. In part four we will examine potential targets for the next position: Strikers.

Stats used to conduct search courtesy of Fbref.


Thank you very much for taking the time to read part three of this ‘Recruitment Analysis’. I would be more than happy to discuss the suggestions I have put forward here, or hear any other suggestions people may have regarding Newcastle’s transfer options. Furthermore, I would be delighted to hear any feedback, positive or negative, on the piece itself and would be happy to discuss it in more detail with anyone who wishes to. You can contact me via Twitter here or via email at thomasmillman@yahoo.com. Thank you

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