Hugo Ekitike – Will The French Wonder-kid Finally Make The Move To Newcastle?

Photo Credit: AP

The race to capture the signature of young French wonder kid Hugo Ekitike could get competitive this summer. The transfer interest in the player has been on the rise. Earlier this year, the Reims striker was a firm transfer target for Premier League side Newcastle United.

With the newfound spending power of the Magpies, a statement signing of one of the hottest young properties in the game would be huge for Newcastle. But if they are to capture him this summer, then they may have to win an increasingly congested race.

First interest from Tyneside

Newcastle United first launched a £29 million bid for the player during the 2022 January transfer window. After back and forth between the two parties, Reims and the Magpies had apparently agreed on a slightly higher fee of £33 million for the player.

But the deal was reportedly scuppered by the player himself. Ekitike opted to stick with the French Ligue 1 club for the remainder of the 2021/22 season at least.

Newcastle, who were in disarray over the first half of last season’s Premier League campaign, eventually landed a mid-table finish. That was thanks to the appointment of head coach Eddie Howe who turned their fortunes around.

A massive takeover last year injected a big transfer chest for the Magpies to play with. Their immediate ambitions are to at least push on to get into the race for the European places during the 2022/23 Premier League campaign. To do that, reinforcements are likely to be signed this summer.

Title rejection

But in mid-January, the top-flight status of Newcastle was still heavily in question. That was despite everything that was happening at the club. The Magpies had won only one league match all season when they played out a 1-1 draw with Watford on January 15th.

While they did then beat Leeds on January 22nd, Newcastle United were still deep in the relegation zone. That match against Leeds was their final EPL fixture before the January transfer window closed. At that point, Hugo Ekitike reportedly rejected a move to Newcastle because of the club’s precarious position in the top flight.

It made sense. While there was a chance for him to go and make a name for himself in the Premier League, the potential move at the time did carry a certain degree of risk.

That didn’t stop other names from going to Tyneside in the January transfer window, however. Newcastle went big to pull in the influential Bruno Guimarães who was an instant hit. They also captured experienced campaigners Kieran Trippier and Chris Wood. Defensive ranks were bolstered by the signing of Dan Burn from Brighton.

While Newcastle couldn’t get Ekitike at the first time of asking, will they get a second bite of the cherry during the summer? Their mid-table finish would certainly make them a more appealing destination for Ekitike just a few months on from the initial interest.

Other clubs in the race

But Newcastle United now appear to have gone from almost getting their man, to having to fight off other potential suitors during the summer. Scouring the latest sports news, there are all sorts of major European clubs who have him on their radar. Clubs with the allure of UEFA Champions League football. That’s something that Newcastle can’t currently offer.

Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid have all been mentioned in transfer rumours talks involving Hugo Ekitike. But the biggest potential suitor that could throw a spanner in Newcastle’s transfer works is Ligue 1 giants PSG.

There have been suggestions that talks between the two French clubs have already been going on. This would be a big capture for PSG as they chase their elusive UEFA Champions League title.

It would be a good, positive move by new boss Christophe Gaultier who recently took over from Mauricio Pochettino too.

PSG make their presence felt

PSG have a star-studded front line as it is. They have Neymar (30), Lionel Messi (35) and Kylian Mbappe. But, the latter aside, it’s not a sprightly, young front line that the Parisian giants have at their disposal. The main backup is 29-year-old Mauro Icardi.

There has been some apparent recent disagreement between Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe. It’s allegedly about the future of Neymar in Paris. After signing a huge new deal to stay at PSG, it’s been suggested that Kylian Mbappe now has some extra behind-the-scenes powers, having a big say in what happens in terms of transfers.

Some rumours have the club as being willing to listen to offers for Neymar, as Mbappe doesn’t see a future for the Brazilian at PSG. But Messi appears to still want Neymar around. So that sounds like the latest trouble over in the Parisian paradise. Neymar is under contract with PSG until 2027, so it would take something monumental for him to move away.

That aside, even if the power trio are still intact, there’s a long season ahead for PSG on the domestic and European front. It’s a cause that could probably benefit from some younger legs to carry some of the load. That is where a potential move for Ekitike could be on the cards.

Hugo Ekitike to remain in Ligue 1?

There would probably be some fair appeal for Hugo Ekitike to consider a contract offer in the capital. It would also give the player himself, more than a reasonable shot of collecting some easy silverware in the forthcoming season.

PSG, with their phenomenal sending power and star-studded squad, are the dominant force on the French domestic scene. They have won the Ligue 1 title in eight of the last nine seasons and once again are current favourites to sweep the crown in the 2022/23 campaign.

It’s the big continental title of the UEFA Champions League that they really want though. After making an early exit from last season’s Champions League campaign at the hands of Real Madrid, there were calls for owner Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to step down. That’s how desperate PSG fans are for the UCL title.

Despite all the investment that Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has put into the club through the Qatar Sports Investments, the big title that they really want has remained elusive. They want to be crowned the Kings of Europe. The closest that they got was in 2020 when they lost the final 1-0 to Bayern Munich at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, Portugal.

Who is Hugo Ekitike

Hugo Ekitike is a 20-year-old who has only had a couple of top-flight seasons under his belt. The young Frenchman got his breakthrough at Reims II when he fired off five goals in twelve appearances in the Championnat National 2.

He was sent out on loan for most of the following season to Danish Superliga club Vejle BK, for whom he scored three goals in eleven appearances. It was during that 2020/21 campaign that Ekitike made his Ligue 1 debut.

That senior debut for Reims was in October 2020 when he was on the losing side against Lorient. In 2021, he got his first league goals in a 3-1 success over Nantes, having come off the substitutes bench to make a huge impact.

2021/22 full-season breakthrough

The 2021/22 Ligue 1 season is where the talent of Ekitike really shone through at the top level. Given a proper chance by Reims, Ekitike returned 10 goals in 24 league appearances for the club. Reims finished 12th in the Ligue 1 standings.

The rangy striker who stands at 6ft 2in is also full of pace and control, making him a potential star. He has yet to appear for the senior France team but has had some limited appearances with the France U20 side.

It’s been a short, yet successful journey so far for Ekitike. It is clear from the current transfer race to sign him, that he could be set for even bigger things ahead. But if a move is forthcoming this summer, where will he end up?

Options lie ahead for Hugo Ekitike

Will it be a jump to the Premier League to be the future of Newcastle’s promising future? Or will the lure of any bid from PSG be too big to turn down? The rejection of Newcastle in January this year could hint that he sees bigger opportunities elsewhere.

If rumours are correct that Europe’s heavyweights like Bayern Munich and Real Madrid are interested, then it would be easy to see why Ekitike may bide his time. There is also the option that he stays with Reims and spends at least a further season under development with them.

There are two ways that such a thing could go. Incoming offers could be rejected and he remains contracted to Reims or he could be purchased by another club to be immediately sent back to Reims on loan to continue his development in familiar surroundings.

If he refuses a summer transfer and were to stay at Reims and the goals keep flowing, any potential suitors are going to have to come up with a lot more money, say in January or next summer in order to sign him. However, as it seemed like Reims were eager to cash in on this rare top talent that they have nurtured in January, it ramps up the probability of a summer move.

Ekitike is currently rated around the £30 million mark in the transfer market. That’s a price which is tempting enough for clubs to come and take a chance on this top young, raw talent.