When he arrived on loan in January from Inter Milan, Valentino Lazaro may have been hoping to feature more frequently than the two Premier League starts he has managed for Newcastle so far, and he is believed to be unhappy at having not done so.
Then again, most fans, and Steve Bruce himself, perceived the Austrian international to be a right wing-back, though the player revealed he thought, although he’s played that position for two years, he is better utilised further forwards. Perhaps even more surprisingly, the 24-year-old admitted he was trying to learn to play more defensively. Nevertheless, with Bruce selecting four at the back, more often than not, Lazaro has been left looking on from the bench.
Though when he has featured as a winger, the Austrian speedster has shown promise, scoring against West Bromwich Albion in the FA Cup, beating Aaron Ramsdale to fire in Newcastle’s fourth against Bournemouth, as well as rattling the bar with a vicious long-range effort in that encounter. Lazaro remains determined to prove himself in the division and fortunately for him, Bruce has promised to rotate his starting eleven for the final five matches, meaning he may get more minutes than his 73 in five games since the Premier League resumed.
Aside from his two goals for the Magpies, Lazaro has not been given enough opportunities to outline what value ha may have to offer. In substitute appearances, he’s appeared diligent and eager to please, while retaining a tidy 82.6 per cent pass accuracy. However, the main issue has been those passes have not troubled the opposition often enough, playing a meagre 0.4 key passes per 90 minutes. While his 0.4 crosses per match are the third highest in the Newcastle squad, level with regulars DeAndre Yedlin and Sean Longstaff, this only serves to highlight how infrequently Bruce’s side cross the ball, preferring lower risk options in the final third, via WhoScored.
Lazaro’s eye for goal could be what tempts the Toon to attempt to extend his stay at St James’ Park, as Newcastle have been desperately short of regular scorers this term, with Jonjo Shelvey leading the way on six strikes. If the Austrian international can continue his excellent conversion rate when given more starts, then the Magpies would have a greater incentive to keep the loanee on Tyneside.
Otherwise, Lazaro may well be heading back to Serie A wondering what could have been.