Newcastle close in on Matheus Franca deal with ‘another £4m needed’

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Newcastle are hoping to seal their second January transfer by bringing Flamengo forward Matheus Franca to St James’ Park. Eddie Howe sanctioned the exit of Chris Wood on loan to Nottingham Forest, with the possibility of an obligation to buy, which has given the north-east side more room to manoeuvre this month.

90min have reported that Newcastle have made a £14million bid for the 18-year-old while German side Bayer Leverkusen have already had a £10m offer turned down earlier in the window. The Brazilian side are hoping to get £18m for their starlet and could ask the Magpies to offer another £4m on top of their current offer to get the deal over the line.

Franca could become the second player to move to Newcastle this month after fellow youngster Garang Kuol, with the Australian World Cup ace joining from Central Coast Mariners before being sent on loan to Hearts.

A year ago in the first transfer window under the club’s new Saudi Arabia ownership, the focus was on improving the first team as Wood, Bruno Guimaraes, Kieran Trippier and Dan Burn moved to Newcastle, but the transfer strategy has since shifted as the Toon also look to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations.

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Howe’s squad has got them into top-four contention as they are currently sitting third in the Premier League table and have not conceded a single league goal since the World Cup break. While there have been high-profile transfer links to the likes of James Maddison and Anthony Gordon, the squad could be supplemented by young talent from across the globe that has been unearthed by the recruitment team headed up by Dan Ashworth.

Howe admitted that the club’s transfer policy had shifted to put a greater emphasis on younger talent. “There was a want from the club to sign young and develop young players within our academy as part of a real shift in focus to youth,” Howe said earlier this month. “I think there will be more deals done where players come in and go into the academy and develop behind the scenes.

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“I think, for me, I only have so much time to look at targets and focus on what we need now. It’s separate from my remit and it’s more of a club thing that goes on behind the scenes. Scouts and Dan Ashworth will lead that.

“But I certainly back that idea. It’s important we do try and sign some of the best young talent in the world, while also developing our players here at Newcastle.”

Signing both Franca and Kuol this month would indicate that the policy has changed and would explain links to youngsters such as Ivan Fresneda, who they face competition from Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund for and Sunderland’s 15-year-old starlet Chris Rigg.

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