McClaren banks on Mitrovic's influence

Aleksandar Mitrovic became the Newcastle United's second expensive new arrival this summer, leaving Anderlecht for a five-year contract at St James' Park.
Aleksandar Mitrovic became the Newcastle United's second expensive new arrival this summer, leaving Anderlecht for a five-year contract at St James' Park.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • If he performs half as well as the players he idolises, Aleksandar Mitrovic will not prove to be much of a gamble, even at £13 million (S$27.7 million), the fourth-highest incoming transfer in Newcastle United's history.

The Serbia striker on Tuesday became the club's second expensive new arrival this summer, leaving Anderlecht for a five-year contract at St James' Park.

The arrival of Mitrovic, 20, was hailed for its significance by Newcastle manager Steve McClaren.

Mitrovic scored 23 goals in 44 appearances for the Belgian club last season, including a goal against Arsenal in the 3-3 Champions League draw at the Emirates.

"We have fought off a lot of competition to secure a top young talent in Europe," the former England manager said.

"Aleksandar is someone who can develop with the team and someone who will help us to get to where we want to go."

Away from the relegation places would be a start, with Newcastle's position in the Premier League only secured on the final day of last season.

But Mitrovic's signing on top of that of Georginio Wijnaldum, a £14.5 million addition from PSV Eindhoven, has restored a positive atmosphere at Tyneside. Only Michael Owen (£17.5 million) and Alan Shearer (£14.7 million) have cost more.

The Toon Army had grown disillusioned over club owner Mike Ashley's thrifty handling of Newcastle's finances in recent times. Yet, with more than a month to go till the summer transfer window closes, Newcastle have already spent a record amount on fresh faces since Ashley took over in 2007.

Moreover, Chancel Mbemba, Mitrovic's former team-mate in Brussels, is also expected to join McClaren's team.

Mitrovic is hoping to follow in some illustrious footsteps.

"I am a real No. 9, the penalty box is my place," he said.

"My position is through the middle. I'm like strikers who have played here before - from Alan Shearer to Papiss (Cisse). They are big names and I hope I can make a similar impact.

"Alan Shearer is a real legend and one of my heroes. That and (Didier) Drogba is how I like to play and it's an honour to play at this club."

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2015, with the headline 'McClaren banks on Mitrovic's influence'. Print Edition | Subscribe