Newcastle sign Wood from relegation rival Digne at Villa
Newcastle beefed up their attacking options – and significantly weakened those of a relegation rival in the Premier League – by signing Chris Wood from Burnley for £ 25million ($ 34.5million) on Thursday.
Newcastle have triggered the release clause in Wood’s contract to make the New Zealand striker the club’s second signing of the January transfer window, after England right-back Kieran Trippier from Spanish champion Atlético Madrid.
Aston Villa has also been busy in the January market, with French left-back Lucas Digne coming from Everton on Thursday to add to the loan signing of Philippe Coutinho from Barcelona last week.
Digne, who fell out with Everton manager Rafa Benitez and asked to leave the club, will also cost Villa up to $ 34.5million.
Wood’s arrival is another sign of intent from new Saudi ownership of Newcastle, which has more resources than any other football club and has chosen to poach perhaps the best player from a direct rival for the relegation.
Wood has only scored three times this season but has consistently achieved double goals in recent years. He will fill the void left by Callum Wilson, who could be out until March with a calf injury.
“Chris is an important signing for us at a crucial time,” said Newcastle manager Eddie Howe, “and I’m very happy that we were able to act quickly and bring him here.
“He’s a very dangerous offensive threat, he’s got a physique and a character that I really like, and he has extensive experience in the Premier League,” Howe added. “It will suit us perfectly.”
Newcastle are penultimate in the league, one point above Norwich and tied on points with Burnley.
Newcastle have won only one game all season – against Burnley.
Digne played for Paris Saint-Germain, Roma and Barcelona before Everton, so comes with a top-level experience which has been a big draw for Villa manager Steven Gerrard.
“When Lucas became available we jumped at the chance to bring him to the club,” said Gerrard. “Signing a player of his pedigree and quality in the January window is a great addition to our squad and his arrival excites me and everyone associated with Aston Villa.
Gerrard places a lot of emphasis on having his full-backs rise high on the pitch to give breadth – this tactic has been key to the Rangers’ success under Gerrard in Scotland for the past two years – and Digne attacks naturally.
He will likely replace Matt Targett and could make his Manchester United debut on Saturday, when Coutinho is also expected to feature for Villa for the first time.
Digne has lost his place in Everton’s squad in recent weeks and appeared to target Benitez in an Instagram post that confirmed his departure after 3.5 years.
“Sometimes,” he wrote, “it just takes one outside person to destroy a beautiful love story.”
Tellingly, he also pointed out that working under Gerrard, who was a Premier League big at Liverpool, was the main factor in the move.
“I came here for the manager,” Digne said. “I had a very good meeting with him and we have spoken several times during this month. I can sense his desire to win, to show his football as a manager – attacking football, possession.
“I feel like this is what I want.”
More AP football: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Steve Douglas is on https://twitter.com/sdouglas80