by JLH PHOTO
Davide Santon did not do too much wrong during his three-and-a-half years with Newcastle United, making close to 100 appearances for the Premier League side.
Fitness may have been an issue towards the end of his time on Tyneside, but he was surely a player worth persevering with rather than casting to one side.
The Magpies were, however, happy to sanction a return to former employers Inter Milan on an initial loan deal in January, with that agreement made permanent in March.
Inter moved quickly having seen Santon convince them that he was capable of steering clear of the treatment table and thriving in familiar surroundings.
Newcastle’s loss would appear to be their gain.
As Santon strutted his stuff in Serie A over the second half of the season, those he left behind went into freefall as St James’ Park saw manager Alan Pardew depart for Premier League rivals Crystal Palace and results on the field take a sudden turn for the worse.
Newcastle, with a threadbare squad – particularly at the back – fended off the threat of relegation by the skin of their teeth, but serious questions are being asked this summer.
Among them are, who comes in to join the ranks?
Steve McClaren has been appointed as manager, but considerable alterations are expected to the playing staff.
Bodies are badly needed in defence, an area where Santon’s versatility – as a man capable of operating on either side of the back four – would have come in very useful.
Newcastle, though, who recouped just £2.8million of the reported £5.3m they paid for the Italy international when offloading him back to Inter, are now having to scour the market once again and prepare themselves to dig deep into the coffers.
Burnley full-back Kieran Trippier is among those to have been linked with a summer switch, with McClaren hoping to fend off competition from plenty of domestic rivals in order to secure his signature.
Trippier is reported to have a release clause in his contract of £3.5m, a very reasonable fee but one which Newcastle could have avoided paying for a player who doesn’t add too much to what they already had on their books in the not too distant past.
It is also worth pointing out that the former Manchester City trainee has just suffered relegation out of the Premier League and, although Burnley will be well fancied to bounce straight back up within Championship betting markets, he was unable to inspire them to great things in 2014/15.
To compare Trippier with Santon is easy enough, with both 24 years of age.
Newcastle wound not, therefore, be parting with the old and bringing in the new. Santon is also considerably more experienced that his defensive counterpart and has graced the very top of the game – the Champions League and senior international stage – while drawing high praise from the likes of Marcello Lippi and Jose Mourinho.
Trippier, on the other hand, has one year of top-flight experience under his belt and two England U21 caps to his name.
He may have shown last season that he is capable of holding his own among English football’s elite, but Santon had hardly embarrassed himself at that level and was a player at a similar stage of his career that could have gone on to scale even greater heights if patience had been shown and his full potential had been given time to be unlocked.