Transfer News: West Ham United battle Newcastle United for Attila Szalai

West Ham United and Newcastle United have reportedly expressed their interest in signing Fenerbahce defender Attila Szalai in the January transfer window.

According to Sky Sports, Newcastle United will have to battle it out with fellow Premier League club West Ham United to secure the services of Hungarian defender Attila Szalai from Fenerbahce.

Szalai came through the youth ranks at Rapid Wien, and joined Mezokovesdi SE after struggling to secure first-team football with Die Grün-Weißen. After a brief stint with the Hungarian club where had he his breakout campaign, Szalai switched to Apollon Limassol, who were fighting at the top of Cyprus’ First Division and in the Europa League.

The 23-year-old continued his progression in Cyprus before earning a move to Turkish outfit Fenerbache in January 2021. His solid performances earned him a deserved spot in the Hungary squad for UEFA Euro 2020, where the talented defender shone with his defensive work-ethic, discipline and  aggression as minnows Hungary won the hearts of many by holding out Germany and France to draws, but were unfortunately knocked out.

The youngster has not looked back since then and has seemingly stepped up to improve his game. He has featured in all but one game across all competitions this season, notching up two assists, with the Yellow Canaries sixth in the Super Lig table while also gaining some valuable European experience along the way.

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Barcelona were heavily linked with the promising defender last November, but Chelsea seemed to be in pole position to sign the Hungarian international. In early December, it was reported that the Blues were on the verge of sealing a deal to sign Attila Szalai. That is because Hungary boss Marco Rossi seemed to confirm that he was off to Stamford Bridge.

However, that never happened, although it seems his impressive displays in Turkey have not gone unnoticed across the continent, with Premier League sides Newcastle and West Ham United both showing an interest in the 23-year-old. He has also caught the attention of Serie A giants AC Milan, who have also joined the bandwagon of admirers.

West Ham are the latest to enter the race to sign the promising defender. With David Moyes’ operating with a thin squad, West Ham would require reinforcements in January to be able to compete on all fronts. The Hammers are in the market for a new left-footed defender as Angelo Ogbonna’s season has ended prematurely due to a long-term injury. Szalai, 23, not only fits the profile but he could form a long-term defensive partnership alongside summer recruit Kurt Zouma.

Newcastle, meanwhile, have been scrambling in their search for central defensive additions this month, having seen multiple bids knocked back for priority target Sven Botman. Similar to West Ham, the Magpies are scouring the market for a young left-footed defender as a direct replacement for Ciaran Clark, who has largely underwhelmed this season. Szalai has huge potential for the future and could be a smart investment in the longer run.

The 23-year-old’s contract with Fener expires in the summer of 2025, and it is believed that a fee in the region of €20 million would be enough to secure the Hungarian international. Whether Newcastle or West Ham make a move for Szalai in January remains to be seen.

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