Steve Bruce claims it’s been “really difficult” to play Valentino Lazaro following his loan move from Inter Milan, accepting the Austrian will be “disappointed” with his lack of game time.
The 24-year-old has played just 383 minutes of Premier League football for Newcastle since arriving in January, making it seem highly unlikely that he seals a £20m permanent move to St James’ Park this summer.
Here’s what Bruce has had to say in a bid to defend the lack of minutes he’s handed the winger:
“It’s been really difficult, because of the lockdown situation. He probably hasn’t played as much as he would like.
“I think he’s just getting used to playing in the Premier League, but now its finishing.
“I’m sure he’ll be disappointed with the amount of game time he’s had, but, look, up until two, three games ago, the team were playing very, very well, and he couldn’t find his way into it.
“So it’s been difficult for the boy, but I still like him as a player and as a lad.
“He’ll look at the game time, and think he hasn’t had enough.”
Personally, I’ve been baffled by his lack of game time and slightly frustrated that someone who appears to be our most exciting / most talented January arrival is being wasted – all while an out of sorts Danny Rose is being lined up for a permanent move.
If we were talking about Nabil Bentaleb here then I’d understand the total lack of minutes – he’s often looked unfit, too casual and a general liability since he signed – but the same cannot be said about Lazaro.
He was brilliant in our FA Cup win at West Brom and scored. His reward? Back on the bench the game after. He came on at Bournemouth and made an immediate impact, scoring one and rattling the bar soon after. His reward? A substitute in our next game. Then last night. He made an immediate impact in his last cameo appearance against Spurs, with his run into the box playing a big part in the build up to Ritchie’s goal. Surely he would start at Brighton with ASM an injury doubt? Wrong again, with him restricted to just a few minutes once more.
Bruce’s reluctance to use him made me wonder if there was an attitude problem, however his comments here prove he likes both his character and ability as a player. Also, how can Bruce suggest there’s been no way into the side for Lazaro when this is the same guy who played an out of sorts and exit-bound DeAndre Yedlin as a winger ahead of him in our last home game?
Maybe he knows the club have no intention to pay £20m so he’s not bothered playing someone who has no long term future, however I’m quite sure we’d have all been urging the club to sign him permanently had he been given the chance to show what he’s capable of every week.
We did well to get him given Bundesliga contenders RB Leipzig were in the mix, however he must feel pretty betrayed by Bruce. The NUFC boss has often talked about his players being tired or bemoaning his luck with injuries / the fact he hasn’t got the luxury to rotate like some sides can, yet he’s had a very capable player in Lazaro sat on his bench ever week – and he’s generally been ignored, for some reason.
He’s not our player and it may be that he’s never actually had any interest in staying beyond this loan spell, but any hopes we had of convincing him to stay must be all but over now.
We’ll not lose any sleep over it if a takeover goes through, however I can’t help but think Lazaro is someone who’d have been a snip at £20m and a very capable Premier League player had Bruce given him the chances his eye-catching cameos deserved.