Former cult hero Aleksandar Mitrovic has shocked fans by revealing he almost signed for Middlesbrough before joining Fulham on loan in January 2018.
The Serbian has since become a fan favourite at Craven Cottage since completing a £22m move to Fulham 18 months ago, with him netting 23 times this campaign to sit on top of the Championship goal-scoring charts.
However, he has confessed how close he was to moving elsewhere, with Teeside looking his most probable destination at one stage – news which will come as a surprise to Newcastle fans.
Here’s what he told FourFourTwo about his attempts to leave Newcastle in 2018 following a lack of game time under Rafa Benitez:
“It was one of the most stressful days of my life,”
“I travelled from Newcastle to Belgium, to re-sign for Anderlecht. But the transfer broke down because they were unable to sell one of their players to Udinese, so didn’t have the money to sign me.
“Newcastle called and said Middlesbrough would sign me. At that point I said I’d go anywhere, so my agent started negotiating with Boro.
“I was looking at WhatsApp, and then I saw Slavisa Jokanovic’s name. He had called me only a few days before and asked about my situation, and I told him that I was going to Anderlecht.
“On deadline day I got bored with waiting, so I sent him a message saying: ‘Hi, how are you?’
“He messaged me back, asking if it was true that my deal had broken down, and saying he still needed a striker.
“I replied: ‘Yes please, I want to join Fulham. Phone my agent.’ We did the deal in Belgium. It went right to the final minutes – I was so relieved to get it done.
“I was the player they were missing, and this was the club I needed.”
While Mitrovic moving to Middlesbrough would have been a surprise, it certainly wouldn’t have bothered me.
The Smoggies may dislike us and Sunderland, but the reality is that whether you’re a black and white or a red and white supporter, you probably don’t care all that much about Middlesbrough! Our rivalry is with one another.
Selling Mitrovic looks like it has been a mistake, but it is clear that he wasn’t sold for footballing reasons – we played Joselu ahead of him for goodness sake.
Rafa simply didn’t trust nor fancy him, similar to how Jonjo Shelvey was treated at times too – he’s just that type of manager.
Ironically, Mitrovic would have almost certainly been a better option for us than Joelinton at present, who simply hasn’t cut it so far in a Newcastle shirt since his arrival.
It would be interesting to see a poll of how many Newcastle fans would have him back – I know I certainly would!