It was confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that Fabian Schar is now on his way to Newcastle – with the Swiss centre-back booked in for a medical after the club activated his £3m release clause at Deportivo La Coruna.
Since then, we’ve reached out to La Liga specialist Simon Harrison (@simonhfootball), conducting a small Q&A in a bid to find out a bit more about the 26-year-old defender who looks all set to become Rafa Benitez’s fourth signing of the summer.
Here’s what he’s had to say ahead of his imminent move to NUFC after watching him in Spain over the past season:
Q1) What sort of player is Fabian Schar? We know he’s a Swiss international centre-back, but what would you say his strengths and weaknesses are as a player?
“Strengths definitely lie in playing out from the back. He openly takes risks to try and get the game moving, tries passes and goes on runs that most central defenders wouldn’t attempt. He was in and out of the Depor team in the second half of last season, so not sure what their coaches made of his overall mentality – they had a few! – but I’d say he’s more of an interesting player on the ball and looking to pick a pass than he is defensively.
“He’s a solid, decent defender, but nothing special in terms of what he offers aerially and dispossessing players. I’d say in those regards he doesn’t stand out too much – it’ll be his ball-playing ability that catches the eye more.
“He can make mistakes, but that’s because he takes risks on the ball – at the same time it can be a positive if things come off!
“Positioning wise he was caught out occasionally last season, if I remember rightly. He did get caught up in a bit of nonsense to get booked occasionally too.
“Decent height (6ft 2′), decent pace.”
Q2) With Benitez working to a very restricted budget, a few Newcastle fans are worried this is a bargain basement signing at just £3m. Those fears aren’t helped by the fact he’s just been part of a Deportivo side that shipped the most goals in Spain during their relegation season in 2017/18 – Have Newcastle fans got a right to be concerned, or has Rafa found a hidden gem here??
“I wouldn’t concern myself with looking a Depor, they were a bit of a joke last season, all things told.
“They had a few different coaches, none of whom were really any good, and they played five different goalkeepers over the course of the campaign. A fairly decent amount of their conceded goals would have been avoided with a solid goalkeeper.
“Schär and the back four were often left quite exposed, and the full backs weren’t up to much defensively either. Bit of a mess.”
Q3) I saw he was linked with Barcelona just a few years back after really catching the eye in Switzerland with Basel. Since then, he’s ended up spending a year in Germany and Spain and is on the move again, suggesting he’s struggled to settle or not quite lived up to the hype. What’s went wrong for him?
“I think it’s just down to situations. Presume that he and the rest of the world hoped that he would kick on at Hoffenheim, but it must be remembered that Barcelona get linked with every ball-playing central defender going.
“For some reason, he barely played in his second season in Germany, and Depor got a cut-price deal for their problems.
“He settled in quickly and was good for a reasonable portion of last season, but then was less frequently used when things got more gritty.”
Q4) I see that he’s scored 27 goals and bagged 11 assists – which as a relatively young centre-back seems very impressive. Is he quite a modern day defender who’ll look to get on the ball, create, and push forward or is he just very handy from set pieces?
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see the odd few shots from distance, but mainly he can be an aerial threat from set pieces, as well as pretty handy from dead-ball situations himself.
“Very much a technically gifted player, but while it won’t show up in terms of stats, he does like to try and get on the ball and move his team upfield whenever the space is there.”
Q5) Given our lack of quality, Rafa Benitez’s NUFC now prides itself on hard work, discipline, togetherness and character. Do you think Schar has the sort of temperament to fit into this set up? (Especially when he’ll have to fight for his place given Lascelles and Lejeune are very much our first choice pairing at present)
“I watched a lot of Lejeune when he was at Eibar, and he’s a terrific defender, so no surprises there.
“I think that Schär’s mentality could be the only question mark, as he has the ability, but a couple of coaches now have seen fit to phase him out a little.
“Benitez seems to have got the best out of a few different problem players, so it could be a good match, as well as Schär potentially being used to be the main ball-playing defender if Newcastle ever tinker with how many central defenders they deploy at the back.”
Some really interesting stuff here, with him sounding very much like a ball playing centre-back and a player who could prove to be an absolute bargain at just £3m.
Here’s him in action for Switzerland recently: