In­trest in Mitro­vic but Rafa un­de­cided whether to let striker leave

Sunday Sun - - Football -

ALEKSANDAR Mitro­vic is at­tract­ing in­ter­est from China and the Cham­pi­onship – but Rafa Ben­itez is yet to de­cide whether he can af­ford to let the striker leave New­cas­tle United in Jan­uary.

The 23-year-old has played just 30 min­utes of Pre­mier League foot­ball so far this sea­son and is Ben­itez’s third-choice striker, be­tween both Joselu and Dwight Gayle.

Ben­itez sim­ply does not ap­pear to trust the for­ward, and that has alerted clubs both home and abroad to his po­ten­tial avail­abil­ity in Jan­uary, though Mitro­vic will only be al­lowed to leave if a re­place­ment can be signed.

Three Cham­pi­onship clubs made en­quiries for the Ser­bia in­ter­na­tional dur­ing the sum­mer, and an­other sec­ond-tier side reg­is­tered an in­ter­est in Mitro­vic ear­lier this week – stress­ing they would be keen to sign the for­ward dur­ing the mid-sea­son win­dow.

For­mer club An­der­lecht have also made it clear that they would be keen to take Mitro­vic on loan for the sec­ond half of the sea­son.

But in­ter­est in Mitro­vic even stretches as far as China, where at least two Chi­nese Su­per League clubs are un­der­stood to be in­ter­ested in the for­ward, in­clud­ing Shang­hai Green­land Shen­hua.

They will have taken a keen in­ter­est in Mitro­vic’s per­for­mance for Ser­bia at the Tianhe Sta­dium as the Com­plete the form on the left. We have launched the sur­vey on­line, please visit our New­cas­tle United sec­tion on our sis­ter for­ward started for Ser­bia against China in Guangzhou on Fri­day, scor­ing his side’s sec­ond in a 2-0 vic­tory.

Mitro­vic has played for a com­bined 531 min­utes for club and coun­try so far this sea­son and has scored four times – mean­ing he has a re­turn of a goal ev­ery 133 min­utes.

How­ever, though Ben­itez would ide­ally pre­fer to sell Mitro­vic – who was avail­able for the right price dur­ing each of the last three win­dows – the New­cas­tle man­ager will only do so if and when he has a re­place­ment lined up.

United have al­ready iden­ti­fied sev­eral po­ten­tial striker tar­gets, with a loan deal for Liver­pool’s web­site at www.chron­i­cle­live.co.uk/all-about/ new­cas­tle-united-fc and fol­low the link to Great­est EVER XI

There is scope to add in your favourites if they haven’t been in­cluded on the short­list. Sim­ply type in their full name in the com­ment box on the on­line Sur­vey Mon­key link and it will count as one vote. If your favourite gets more votes than any of the nom­i­nated play­ers, we’ll in­clude them in the team – as long as our se­lec­tion panel con­sid­ers them a suit­able ad­di­tion!

It was not an easy call. New­cas­tle have tra­di­tion­ally played with a 4-4-2 but there was such a wealth of at­tack­ing tal­ent that we’ve opted for three up front so that you’re spared the dilemma of drop­ping one of club’s strik­ing greats. We’ve still in­cluded all of your favourite wingers. Danny Ings among those be­ing con­sid­ered.

But, given the on-go­ing un­cer­tainty over whether Mike Ash­ley will be able to sell the club by Jan­uary, Ben­itez is un­sure as to what his ex­act bud­get will be.

If he can re­cruit a striker dur­ing the mid-sea­son win­dow, then Mitro­vic will be free to leave - but Ben­itez will not al­low the club to ac­cept an of­fer for the Ser­bian un­til that al­ter­na­tive has been se­cured.

Mitro­vic was left on the bench dur­ing the 1-0 de­feat to AFC Bournemouth last week, de­spite United’s fail­ure to take their chances, and has strug­gled to even be named among the sub­sti­tutes at times this sea­son.

TO mark New­cas­tle United’s 125th an­niver­sary we want you to pick the best New­cas­tle United XI from the club’s rich his­tory.

From Bob Mon­cur to Alan Shearer via some of the other great play­ers who have donned black and white, we have come up with a short­list of 38 play­ers for you to turn into the great­est New­cas­tle side EVER.

And in con­junc­tion with New­cas­tle United, The Sun­day Sun with our sis­ter papers The Jour­nal, the Chron­i­cle and Chron­i­cle­Live is host­ing the se­lec­tion process.

Vot­ing has al­ready opened for you to pick your best play­ers ahead of an an­nounce­ment on De­cem­ber 9 be­fore the club’s 125th an­niver­sary game against Le­ices­ter City at St James’ Park. Here is ev­ery­thing you need to know about the process – in­clud­ing any ques­tions that you might have. How do I pick my team? What if my favourite player isn’t on the list? Why is it a 4-3-3 for­ma­tion?

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