Newcastle United are weighing up a move for Watford’s Ismaila Sarr this summer as they look to bolster their attack ahead of the new campaign.
According to reports, Sarr is one of the attackers the Toon are looking at, and Watford are willing to consider “sensible offers”. The 23-year-old rose to prominence in the 2019/20 campaign where he impressed despite Watford’s eventual relegation from the Premier League, scoring five goals while registering a further four assists.
His performances that season caught the attention of big clubs such as Liverpool and Manchester United. There was an expectancy off the back of that campaign that he would have been sold following Watford’s relegation.
No move materialised however and the Senegal international stayed at Vicarage Road to become an integral part of the Hornets’ promotion-winning side the following season, scoring 13 Championship goals and registering a further four assists.
He impressed again this season, despite being hampered by injuries for large periods of the campaign, registering seven goal contributions in 22 league appearances. That took his tally for Watford to 33 goal involvements across his three seasons in England which can be bettered by no other Hornets player across that period.
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Sarr’s potential was clear from an early age and his career path has followed a number of top Senegalese stars. He initially came through Generation Foot which is an academy in Senegal that’s played a part in the careers of players like Kalidou Koulibaly and Sadio Mane.
He was then recruited by Metz who are a majority shareholder in Generation Foot, and excelled coming through their academy system before making his debut for the French side in August 2016. He was signed by Rennes one year later and made 59 league appearances for the French side before Watford swooped in.
As a player, Sarr is a unique wide attacker in the modern game because he’s right-footed but also plays on the right of his side’s attack. This is unusual as we now often see attackers playing on the opposite flank to what is their preferred foot due to the fact it opens up more regular shooting opportunities.
The Senegal international doesn’t play solely like a wide attacker though and he’s great at drifting into more central locations to latch onto crosses and passes into the penalty area.
His physical profile is also a little different to a traditional wide attacker. Rather than being small and nimble, he stands at 6ft1, making him a threat in the air. But he’s still fast and a dangerous dribbler – only nine right-sided Premier League attackers who played over 1000 minutes averaged more dribbles per 90 (5.37) last season.
Sarr’s versatility would add another dimension to Newcastle ’s attack next season, especially if manager Eddie Howe looks to deploy the 4-3-3 system many expect to see. Allan Saint-Maximin is the ideal left-sided attacker in such a system, yet Sarr could bring greater balance to the Toon’s attack on the opposite flank.
Other big clubs have passed up the chance to sign Sarr in the past, perhaps considering him not yet ready to make the step up. However, he’s now got three years under his belt in England, two of which have come in the Premier League. His potential is clear and Newcastle could be the perfect environment for him to develop further.