Newcastle United look set to follow the signings of AC Milan youngster Cathal Heffernan and Chelsea’s Lewis Hall with the arrival of fellow 18-year-old Kevin Zefi.
The Dublin-born talent has impressed in Inter Milan’s academy and has 12 months left on his contract following a move from Shamrock Rovers two years ago.
Zefi is being advised by former Toon defender Stephen Carr and is set to join our U21s after a breakthrough in talks. He also plays at international level alongside Toon duo Alex Murphy and Reece Byrne; two players Dan Ashworth has brought to the club’s academy over the past 12 months
It’s believed Carr has given Newcastle a glowing review – as a city and football club – with the player also attracted by the project on Tyneside and opportunity to link up the three Irish teammates in Heffernan, Murphy and Byrne.
The skillful youngster has 23 goals and 11 assists across 53 career appearances, although the vast majority of those have come at youth level. Last season, he impressed in Italy’s U18 B league, scoring 16 times in 13 appearances for Inter Milan, along with an assist in the UEFA Youth League; a competition we’ll feature in later this year following our qualification for the Champions League.
The attacker operated as a No.10 over the majority of 2022/23, but has also played as a left winger and striker during the first four years of his young career. Elsewhere, 16-year-old Wolves defender Leo Shahar is also expected to join our U18 side.
As for first-team additions, the arrival of a centre-back hasn’t been ruled out just yet behind the scenes, despite Eddie Howe signalling that our summer business will end with Lewis Hall unless we suffer an injury over the final two weeks of the window.
We’ve been told by a source close to the club’s recruitment team that a right-sided centre-back could yet arrive if the club manage to move on high-earning trio Ryan Fraser, Jeff Hendrick and Isaac Hayden. All three have been up for sale all summer, as they are not in Howe’s plans and take home a combined £160-170,000 per-week.
Javier Manquillo is another who could be moved on – he’s received interest from Getafe and Girona and has slipped further down the pecking order following Tino Livramento’s arrival – while offers for Matt Targett could also be considered now Hall has improved our depth at left-back.
As we reported in early July, the club were looking to cut around £300,000 from the wage bill – which has been partly achieved following exits for Karl Darlow, Jamal Lewis and Allan Saint-Maximin – but it’s been tough to move on Fraser, Hendrick and Hayden, as the clubs interested are not willing to match their current wage demands.
Newcastle will continue to explore their options at centre-back, especially when the loan market will open up in the final week of the window. It remains a long shot, but there’s an outside chance of one late arrival if outgoings pick up and the right deal becomes available to additional cover and competition for Fabian Schar.