According to claims from French outlet, L’Equipe, as cited by the Chronicle Live, Newcastle United are among a host of clubs keeping tabs on youngster Stephane Diarra, who currently plies his trade with Le Mans in the French second-tier.
Premier League high-flyers Leicester City, as well as reigning Scottish champions Celtic, are also monitoring the 21-year-old, who has impressed in the Ligue 2 this season following a permanent move to Le Mans in the summer. (L’Equipe h/t Chronicle Live)
Born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Diarra rose through the youth ranks of Evian Thonon and made his professional debut in Ligue 2 back during the 2015-16 campaign as a promising teenager.
His abrupt emergence in the French second-tier paved the way for a move to the top-flight with Rennes but the 21-year-old largely featured for the club’s reserve side before being farmed out on loan to Le Mans in the summer of 2018.
The talented winger spent the entirety of the previous campaign on loan at Le Mans in the third-tier before making his stay permanent this past summer, having played a key role in the club’s surge for promotion to Ligue 2.
Diarra hasn’t looked back since then and has made a big impact in the second-tier this term, accumulating 4 goals and 3 assists in 22 appearances across all competitions so far.
The 21-year-old’s talent and potential have already put a host of bigger clubs across the continent on red alert and he might not be honing his skills in Ligue 2 for much longer.
Meanwhile, Newcastle United have enjoyed a dramatic turnaround of fortunes under Steve Bruce since the start of November and the Magpies head into the Boxing Day trip to Old Trafford high on confidence, having accumulated as many as five wins in their last eight league fixtures.
The Magpies had found themselves reeling in the bottom half of the standings following a bizarre start to the campaign but a string of impressive results in recent weeks have catapulted them up to 9th in the Premier League standings.
Indeed, Christmas couldn’t have come at a better time for the fans at Tyneside but whether or not Newcastle will find themselves in the top half of the standings come the end of the season is something that only time will reveal. It would be quite a feat for Steve Bruce if he does manage to fight the odds and steer the club to a top-ten finish.
That the Magpies have managed to score 12 goals in their last 8 games represents a significant improvement on the scoring returns from their first 10 outings where they only accumulated a paltry tally of 6.
Despite that, however, Newcastle have often lagged behind their rivals when it comes to scoring goals and bringing in some attacking reinforcements in January would certainly make sense.
To put things into perspective, Stephane Diarra has been making waves in Ligue 2 with his rich vein of form this season and while he doesn’t really fit the bill as an immediate game-changer at St. James’ Park, Newcastle United shouldn’t hesitate to take a punt on the youngster as a long-term prospect.
Despite the likes of Miguel Almiron and Joelinton rising to the occasion in recent times, Newcastle still lack adequate depth in their wide attacking options.
Christian Atsu has proven himself to be more than a useful back-up for Bruce but the Magpies still need to prioritize recruitment on both sides of the pitch to enhance squad depth.
Diarra, who is primarily left-footed but capable of playing out wide on either flank, has only just made his mark in Ligue 2 but his talent and potential have been there for everybody to see, meaning that Newcastle could have a gem on their hands in the years to come if the 21-year-old goes on to fulfill his promise.
The difference in terms of quality and intensity is quite massive when it comes to the Premier League and the French second-tier but there have been obvious signs to suggest Diarra is capable of making the step up to a more competitive league in the near future.
The likes of Said Benrahma, N’Golo Kante, Matteo Guendouzi and Riyad Mahrez all graced Ligue 2 before their emergence in English football and Stephane Diarra could be the next hidden gem in the French second-tier to surprise the world.
Plus, of course, the 21-year-old ticks age profile of young and developing players laid out by club owner Mike Ashley, who has always focussed on the resale value of players in a bid to fund future reinvestment.
All in all, Newcastle United completing a move for Stephane Diarra could pay off handsomely for them in the years to come as the Magpies aim to push on for greater heights under Steve Bruce.
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