Whilst they didn’t achieve it at a canter, Newcastle United bounced back from Premier League relation to promotion at the first time of asking, with Rafa Benitez’s decision to stay at St James’ Park a masterstroke.

The Magpies successes in the Sky Bet Championship obviously relied on the scoring of Dwight Gayle, the qualities of players like Jonjo Shelvey and Matt Ritchie, but it also was a story built from the back.

Players like Jamaal Lascelles and Ciaran Clark provided a solid core in front of keeper Karl Darlow, making the Toon a hard team to break down at times. Now, according to the Chronicle Live, boss Benitez wants to kick-on and add quality to his defensive unit with interest being shown in Inter Milan’s Jeison Murillo and Charleroi’s Clinton Mata.

25-year-old Colombian centre-back Murillo, valued at just shy of £12 million by website Transfermarkt, has been at the Italian giants since a 2015 move from La Liga side Granada – arriving for a fee said to be £6.8 million. He appeared in 27 Serie A games for Inter last season, this taking his total appearances to 69 for the Italian side across all competitions.

24-year-old Angolan right-back Mata, valued by at around £2.5 million by website Transfermarkt, has been a Charleroi player since a July 2014 free transfer from fellow Jupiler Pro League side KAS Eupen. Last season, Mata made 38 appearances across all competition, scoring once in the Jupiler Pro League Play-offs, as well as assisting two goals in league competition.

The Chronicle Live cite reports from Belgian publication DH, for Mata, and Italian publication Gazetto dello Sport, for Murillo, as sources for the Newcastle interest in the pair of international defenders – with Inter looking for €12-15 million for Murillo.

About Author

Cynicism turned to optimism but without the woop woops and ringing bells. Leeds United supporter through thick and thin, more thin than anything recently. Write mainly about the Whites but turn my hand to other clubs. Lover of salted crisp sandwiches. Not a hipster.