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Why Antonio Barreca is a good move for Newcastle United

Newcastle United made a couple of big moves on the January transfer deadline day, as they completed the signing of left-back Antonio Barreca on loan from French Ligue 1 outfit AS Monaco. They also broke their long-standing transfer record, by shelling out £20million to sign playmaker Miguel Almiron from MLS club Atlanta United. (h/t BBC Sport)

The importance of signing Barreca on loan until the end of the season cannot be overlooked. Newcastle had Paul Dummett as the only out-and-out option in the left-back role. Ever since the Welshman has been injured, Benitez was forced to use winger Matt Ritchie on the left-side of his defence.

While the Scotsman has done a sterling job in his makeshift position, there is no taking away the fact that his talents are much better utilized higher up the pitch. Ayoze Perez and Christian Atsu haven’t been able to make the desired impact from the wings. Thus, bringing in Barreca allows the manager to reinstate Ritchie in his natural role further up the field while being able to rely on a proper left-back in defence.

The Italian came through the youth ranks of hometown club Torino and signed his first professional deal with the club in 2014. In his first season as a professional player, he was loaned out to Serie B side Cittadella, where he shone bright, scoring once and setting up eight goals in 39 appearances.

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Following that, he was farmed out on loan to Cagliari in the Italian second division in 2015/16, where he once again made a solid impression, helping the club to promotion to the Serie A. The following season, he finally made his debut for Torino and went on to establish himself as a regular at a very young age of 21. He made 30 appearances in his debut season, setting up two goals.

However, the 2017/18 campaign turned out to be a difficult one for him, as he was constantly disrupted by injuries, meaning he just made nine first-team appearances. That did not dissuade AS Monaco from investing in him in the last summer window.

Having joined the Ligue 1 outfit, Barreca started out well and went on to make nine appearances under Leonardo Jardim, making two assists, but was frozen out of the squad following the appointment of Thierry Henry. The Italian’s previous Ligue 1 appearance for the Principality-based outfit came in October last year.

While Barreca might not have played a lot in recent months, the 23-year-old is a young and talented defender, who, despite his young age, has gathered a lot of experience. The left-back performed admirably in his debut season in the Serie A and has shone at the international level for the Italy U21 side as well, for whom he has already featured 13 times.

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A solid option at the back, with sound defensive instincts, the Italian also provides a good outlet going forward down the left flank, something which cannot be said about Newcastle’s first-choice left-back Paul Dummett. The 23-year-old is coming in with a point to prove and has the potential to make a big difference, as Newcastle continue their fight to avoid relegation.

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