Newcastle hijack gigantic £70m Arsenal raid, with January signing to wreck Chelsea plan too

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe

Newcastle have stepped up their pursuit of a commanding defender wanted by Arsenal and Chelsea, and the Magpies could activate a £70m release clause to secure the deal in January, per reports.

Successive 2-0 defeats have dampened spirits at St. James’ Park, with the first loss to Borussia Dortmund casting their Champions League qualification hopes into doubt.

Eddie Howe’s side now sit bottom of Group F and would be tossed out of Europe altogether if remaining in last place. Finishing third would see Newcastle drop into the Europa League.

Another defeat followed at the weekend, this time against lowly Bournemouth in the Premier League.

A raft of injuries have hampered Howe’s side of late, though that is an issue all big sides whose fixture lists are congested by European football must wrestle with.

Now, according to The Sun, the Magpies could remedy their woes by way of a gigantic transfer splash in January.

The publication state Newcastle are eyeing up Sporting Lisbon centre-back Ousmane Diomande and have scouted the teenage phenom ‘at least three times’ this season.

READ MORE: Everything you must know about Sporting phenom Ousmane Diomande

The latest scouting trip came at the weekend during Sporting’s 2-1 defeat to Benfica. Diomande, 19, played the full 90 minutes in the feisty contest, as he has done in all but one of Sporting’s Primeira Liga matches this term.

The Sun label the imposing Ivory Coast centre-half as ‘the best African prospect playing in Europe’ right now. That is lofty praise and his transfer valuation is reflected as a result.

Indeed, TEAMtalk previously revealed Sporting will not entertain a mid-season sale for anything less than his roughly £70m release clause.

The Sun also point to the £70m clause as being required to unlock Diomande’s signing in January.

Arsenal, Chelsea put on notice

Arsenal and Chelsea have both shown interest in Diomande too. In fact, we confirmed The Gunners have held talks with the player’s agents at Prospect Global.

But while Arsenal would prefer to swoop at season’s end, Newcastle could rock the boat by moving six months early in January.

Chelsea, meanwhile, have sized Diomande up as the potential replacement to Thiago Silva. The classy Brazilian is in the final year of his contract with The Blues and isn’t expected to be offered an extension.

Centre-back is an area Newcastle look perilously light in at present and their lack of depth has been exposed by Sven Botman’s injury absence.

The Dutchman hasn’t featured since sustaining a knee injury in September. Newcastle had hoped surgery would not be necessary, though going under the knife is now a distinct possibility.

Jamaal Lascelles has filled the void alongside Fabian Schar, though there’s little else to speak of by way of established centre-backs beyond that pair.

Dan Burn can play centrally, though has primarily been used at left-back by Howe.

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