Ferreyra worth a gamble up front
Newcastle United have been quick and efficient in their transfer business this summer, moving beyond 18 months of stagnation to bring in some much-needed reinforcements ahead of the new season. Yet for all the expenditure on the likes of Emmanuel Riviere, Siem de Jong, Remy Cabella and Ayoze Perez, there still appears to be a gaping hole in the squad when it comes to centre-forwards. No longer do the Toon have the ever-reliable if uninspiring Shola Ameobi in their ranks to turn to in times of crisis, and with Papiss Cisse set to be in the treatment room for some time, they need to act fast.
In that context, then, it is understandable that reports have begun linking the club to Argentine forward Facundo Ferreyra, a member of Shakhtar Donetsk's South American contingent. A tall and pacey forward, Ferreyra's goal scoring record in recent seasons with Velez Sarsfield and Shakhtar is mightily impressive. He may not be well-known to many fans, but he would certainly be a signing worth getting excited about and, per earlier reports, could even be available on an initial loan deal if that were to be more enticing.
Fans should perhaps treat the speculation with more than a little caution given the unpredictability of the transfer window, but the club's previous interest would suggest they may have continued to track his career and Newcastle have certainly proved adept at capitalising upon market forces to secure talents for below their expected market value over recent seasons.
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Of all of Shakhtar's assets, he is the one for whom a move to England is a realistic possibility. Such a signing, though, comes with inherent risk, and given the extensive changes at Newcastle this summer, he wouldn't have the luxury of arriving into a settled unit. After a rapid start to his career in Ukraine, "Chucky" hasn't scored since October. A lack of playing time has been part of the issue, but there has also been a significant decline in his form since an explosive run of six goals in eight league games early season.
Shakhtar's abundance of attacking players means fans should perhaps not be overly concerned by the lack of recent goals. Since his breakthrough season with Banfield as a 19-year-old, Ferreyra has consistently scored goals at all levels of the game -- including four for his country's under-20 side at the South American championships in 2011. That output got him attention, but 16 goals in 21 games in a one-year spell with Velez elevated his reputation to that of a major striking talent.
It was in earning the top-scorer crown with Velez that he showed a completeness to his game, leading the line alone and helping his club to a league title. There had been initial worries about his lack of physicality, but Ferreyra put to bed those doubts with a sensational season in which he showed finishing prowess with both head and feet. He is still by no means as physically developed as many European clubs would like to see of a centre-forward, but that is a problem easily and relatively quickly solved.
Ferreyra's potential for excellence stems from his intelligent movement and confidence in front of goal. When the ball falls to him in the box, he is adept at creating space for a shot while he will continually look to pull off the shoulder of his marker and exploit his pace -- a trait which could, potentially, open space for the likes of de Jong and Cabella. He will require a side that plays to his strengths, though, if he is to succeed. For all his competence in the air, he will never be an Ameobi or a Demba Ba, players who can make long, hopeful balls forward stick and bring others into play. Newcastle would need to be precise in their approach play.
Whether there is any truth in the reports surrounding Alan Pardew's side, it is clear that several teams will be looking at Ferreyra this summer. At just 23, he is approaching his prime and has the potential to push for a place in the Argentine national team ahead of coming tournaments if he can secure a stage from which to demonstrate his talents.
In a summer in which strikers are moving for inflated fees, Ferreyra could represent reasonable value. Despite Shakhtar's notoriety for driving a hard bargain, Ferreyra is worth a gamble given the shortage of natural goal scorers at the top level.
Chris Atkins is based in China and writes for ESPN FC about the Chinese Super League. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisAtkins_.