It began with disdain from much of the fanbase at the unambitious appointment of Steve Bruce, who has since convinced many doubters, and this term could yet end with a takeover from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. Though on the pitch, while performances have rarely been eye-catching, the Magpies do find themselves cruising towards a fourth successive Premier League campaign. Still, throughout even the direst passages of play, there has been a consistent spark; summer arrival Allan Saint-Maximin.
With a livewire persona and trademark headband, the French winger has become an instant cult classic on Tyneside. His status as fan favourite has only been further cemented since the Premier League’s resumption, with the 23-year-old tearing A.F.C Bournemouth to shreds, picking up the first three assists in the 4-1 thrashing. He also scored against Sheffield United and picked up two Man of the Match awards in the last five games, as per WhoScored.
Bruce insists that the Frenchman will not be sold for any price this summer and the numbers suggest that the manager should not change his stance on the player under any circumstances. Newcastle have won ten of the 19 top-flight matches he has started this season, as per WhoScored, and just one in the 14 when he has been absent. After initially lighting up proceedings with his dribbling prowess, Saint-Maximin’s end product was mercurial, typified when Miguel Almiron inadvertently blocked a strike from the Frenchman with the goal gaping when the pair were both yet to open their accounts for the Magpies earlier in the season.
However, after scoring against Sheffield United in December, the 23-year-old has not looked back, and his attacking output has consistently improved, providing four assists and two goals in his last seven matches, via WhoScored. Saint-Maximin’s rapid increase in end product is similar to that of Wolves’ Adama Traore, with Nuno Espirito Santo’s side even previously tipped to sign winger should the Spaniard depart.
Bruce has shut down speculation the Frenchman will depart this summer, and he must ensure Newcastle’s prized asset remains at St James’ Park, regardless of whether the prospective takeover goes through or not. With or without Saudi Arabian investment Saint-Maximin is the heartbeat of the Magpies’ attack and his omission would leave a gaping hole for Bruce to fill.
Furthermore, his £18m Transfermarkt valuation is a bargain that any ambitious side in the top-flight and around Europe could likely afford. But it would be almost impossible for Newcastle to secure a comparable replacement in the same price bracket.