Newcastle United are reportedly interested in a winter swoop for Morocco World Cup breakout star Azzedine Ounahi, who is also a target for La Liga giants Barcelona.
According to 90min, Newcastle United have set their sights on a potential move for Angers and Morocco central midfielder Azzedine Ounahi in the January transfer window. Following his exploits for Morocco at the World Cup in Qatar, Ounahi’s stock has skyrocketed, with European giants Barcelona also interested in signing him next month.
If Ounahi makes a big-money move in the upcoming January transfer window, it would be an extraordinary rise from oblivion to a shot to the world’s attention, completed almost entirely on football’s grandest stage, since Ounahi came to the World Cup as an unknown quantity outside of Morocco and Ligue 1.
Achraf Hakimi, Hakim Ziyech, and Yassine Bounou were already stars, but by general consensus, they were not the most acclaimed squad at the tournament. Not many fancied them to get out of their group, which included Belgium and Croatia, let alone make a historic run to the semi-finals.
Azzedine Ounahi, in particular, has caught the attention of onlookers off the back of a good World Cup. Along with Sofyan Amrabat and Selim Amallah, Ounahi has been a key member of a midfield that has shut down several of the game’s most talented players. Ounahi has regularly been one of Morocco’s major outlets as they seek to elude the opposition’s siege.
His ability to keep the ball under pressure, get the ball past his defender, or find an opening via an incisive progression pass have been highly impressive. Add to this his tremendous work rate and technical quality, and Ounahi has been one of the tournament’s best performers.
His stellar performances have led to a number of clubs being linked with him in recent days, with his parent club Angers, currently bottom of the Ligue 1 table, rubbing their hands at the prospect of hefty windfall.
Recent reports suggest Barcelona are one of the teams scouting him, while Leicester City are seemingly ready to invest €45 million on the Angers midfielder. Now, cash-rich Newcastle United have also jumped on the bandwagon of his suitors.
Newcastle’s new owners have not yet made a wrong move in the transfer market since taking over the club and have made smart acquisitions with a long-term view. Ounahi would certainly fall into that category, being just 22. His all-action, the intense pressing style would suit Eddie Howe’s system like a glove and would also complement Bruno Guimaraes.
However, standing in Newcastle’s way is Barcelona’s interest in the player. The Catalans view him as a low-cost alternative to Manchester City duo Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan. After all, Ounahi has outplayed the Spanish midfield, which was made up exclusively of Barcelona players.
That said, the chances of Ounahi starting ahead of Pedri, Gavi, or Frenkie de Jong seem unlikely, and the high-pressure move could hinder his progress instead of providing him with a platform to shine further.
Furthermore, the broke Blaugrana lacks the financial capacity to pay the kind of sum that Angers are rumoured to be seeking. On the other hand, if a bidding war breaks out, Newcastle will have the resources to compete with practically anyone.