Newcastle United completed their first signing of the summer as Matz Sels joins from Belgian Pro League side KAA Gent.
The fee for Sels is understood to be in the region of £4.5 million, with the 24-year-old signing a five-year deal on Tyneside.
Sels said that he was “very pleased” and “very happy to be here.” And even though The Magpies have just been relegated for the Premier League, Sels insisted that “Newcastle is a really big club and that’s why chose Newcastle.”
He went on to say that it “was an easy decision to make” once he found out the Magpies were interested in him.
On Sels arrival, Toon boss Rafa Benitez spoke of the injuries to Tim Krul and Rob Elliot stating that it “could be difficult for us in the first part of the season” making it “important to strengthen” the goalkeeping area so that “we can make a strong start.”
Sels was identified as the man to assist Newcastle in their attempt to make a strong start to the campaign which Benitez is “really pleased” to have secured his target.
Benitez added: “He’s a fantastic goalkeeper and many top clubs have been interested in signing him.”
Sels stands at 6'2" where the Chroniclelive.co.uk have said that “he’s big and a physically imposing figure between the sticks.”
The Belgian came through youth academy at Lierse where he would go on to make his first appearance for the club at the tender age of 18-years-old in 2010. His debut was one to remember for Sels as he saved a penalty against his future side Gent.
Four years later, Sels made the move the Gent where he would establish him as their number one keeper, going on to make just over 100 appearances in his two-and-a-half years. The Belgian made history with Gent in his first season at the club when he was a part of the side that lifted Gent’s first ever Belgian Pro league title.
Sels is yet to make his senior debut for Belgium with Thibaut Courtois and Simon Mignolet ranked ahead of him. However, Sels has featured for Belgium at Under 21 level.
Five years later from his penalty save against Genk, Sels saved yet another penalty but this time on his Champions League debut from Alexandre Lacazette as Genk pick up a point against Lyon.
Belgian Pro Keeper of The Year
Gent failed to retain their Belgian Pro title, losing out to Club Brugge KV. But on a personal level, it was yet another achievement for the goalkeeper. He picked up 11 clean sheets in 30 league games which earned him the 2015 Belgian Pro Keeper of The Year award.
Beating a North East rival
The Magpies may be in a division below Middlesbrough, but that didn’t stop United from beating off Boro’s interest to sign the 24-year-old.
According to reports, the Toon Army also battled off other interest from the Premier League with Champions Leicester City, West Ham and Southampton all monitoring Sels’ situation.
Newcastle look likely to sell Krul
The signing of Sels means that at this present moment, Newcastle have four first team keepers on their books in Krul, Elliot and Karl Darlow.
Both Krul and Elliot suffered long term knee injuries over the course of last season. Elliot featured for the large part of the season before his season was ended whilst on international duty. Newcastle ended the season with Darlow in goal meaning all three first team keepers were used.
The arrival of Sels suggests that at least one keeper is set to leave despite Benitez saying it was needed due to the injuries to Krul and Elliot.
Krul has been highly linked with Everton so far in this summer transfer window. After Krul sustained his horror knee injury in October, Benitez may be ready to cash in on the 28-year-old whilst he still has some market value. It is always a possibility that once you have picked up an injury as serious as an ACL, Krul may find it hard to reach his best again.
The Dutchman himself will want to play at the top level in an attempt to win back his place in the Netherlands squad and give himself the best possible chance of establishing himself as one the best keepers in whatever country he plays in.
Five months later from Krul’s injury, Elliot also picked up a ACL injury. The 30-year-old is not due back till November. The Irishman will need time to make a full recovery which means Newcastle fans may not see Elliot feature until the start of 2017.
It looked set for Darlow to start United’s life in the Championship as their number one with hot prospect Freddie Woodman challenging.
However, it looks like Sels and Darlow will be fighting for the right to be number one as Woodman looks certain to go out on loan. Or it could be on a permanent basis with the 19-year-old desperate for first team football in bid to kick start his future.
Elliot and Darlow’s grabbed their first team chances with both hands, however that may have not been enough. The Sels signing suggests that Benitez had a lack of trust in goalkeeping departing.