By Will Butcher
Newcastle are set to rival Leicester City for RedBull Salzburg midfielder Valon Berisha with just hours remaining in the transfer window, according to a report.
The Sun claimed in their transfer news blog (4.30pm, Thursday) that the Toon are chasing the 24-year-old playmaker, after an excellent season in Austrian football that saw Salzburg win the league.
A five-time Kosovo international, Berisha scored eight goals as well as laying on 12 assists last season for Salzburg during his 46 league and cup appearances.
It is believed that Newcastle and Leicester have both shown interest, but Rafa Benitez’s side are the keenest to land the former Viking ace.
The report claims a loan-to-buy deal is most likely for any interested parties to sign Berisha, with a permanent fee of £12million expected to be including in the move.
Newcastle currently have Ayoze Perez and Mohamed Diame in their side that can operate in the number 10 position, but neither have shown the required quality to provide the Toon’s creative spark.
Perez is yet to score for Newcastle this season, while Diame has plummeted down the pecking order and has featured in just 22 minutes of the Toon’s Premier League campaign.
Adding creativity to the side is likely to be high on Benitez’s agenda and Berisha’s form in the top tier of Austrian football has shown that he can do just that.
Football Insider verdict
Newcastle will only escape relegation from the Premier League if they can add a degree of creative nous to their side before Thursday’s 11pm deadline. Berisha, who is preferred in attacking midfield but can play anywhere in the middle of the park as well as out wide, has shown in Austrian football that he can unlock a defence with ease as well as showing an eye for goal that would give the Toon an added dimension in attack from deep. However, he is unproven in a league like the Premier League and with an eventual fee of £12million, Benitez must do his homework on Berisha quickly before confirming a deal.
In other Newcastle transfer news, Toon are one of four sides to be interested in Colombia international Miguel Borja.