After a decade where the January transfer window was largely a non-event for Newcastle fans (usually last-minute panic bids we could never “get over the line”), it feels good to be back in the thick of it again. And not just because we finally have money to spend and our Premier league status depends on it…Well, yes that, but I mean the buzz of the speculation. The “would you” and the “what if’s”.

Checking the gossip column on BBC Sport over breakfast, then mulling over the names being bandied around in the WhatsApp group with your mates. It’s all very ‘Football Manager’-type stuff.

Last night Sky Sports linked the disgruntled Everton full-back Lucas Digne with a £22m (plus Sean Longstaff) bid, and just as quick were reports dismissive of the player’s appetite for any such offer. Chelsea and West Ham have been linked too, although his preference is said to be a move abroad.

But let’s play devil’s advocate a second.

Let’s say, oh, I dunno..a pandemic has torn the ass out of the continent’s finances.

Let’s say most of the teams Lucas would ideally like to play for don’t have the money, and if they do, they don’t want to spend it on a left-back.

Let’s say Chelsea also start to question the wisdom of £25m plus on someone who would be fighting for a place on the subs’ bench with Alonso when Chilwell got back. And as his recovery has gone far better than planned and he is now looking at a return early-February, this isn’t our imagination running wild again.

Finally, let’s say West Ham just won’t (as is being reported) pay his six-figure wage demands that would have Declan Rice, Jarrod Bowen and Michael Antonio’s agents on the phone before the month was out too.

Still with me? Good.

I don’t think these “what if’s” are anywhere near as unlikely as some of the others I having been mulling over these last few days on WhatsApp* (*other messaging services are available).

I am going to dig deeper into the reasons Digne wants to leave, to back up my reasoning here. And then put my case forward for why I think he would be a fantastic purchase. (If, of course, we can “get him over the line”.)

Firstly, what has happened at Everton? If he’s not good enough for them anymore, why would we need him? The reasons Digne was dropped from the Everton side earlier this season were nothing to do with the tactical re-shuffle Benitez first claimed, but a stand-up row the pair had, the player infuriated by the safety-first approach that was blunting his attacking potential.

Since joining from Barcelona in 2018 to replace Toffees legend Leighton Baines at left-back, Digne has managed a respectable 6 goals and an impressive 20 assists in 127 games. He has stamina, great timing and tenacity in the tackle, and he is a superb crosser (as those stats bear testament) and a threat from set-pieces. Anyone who saw that 96th minute free-kick equaliser against Watford in his first season won’t need reminding. Ben Foster certainly doesn’t.

Plus, he only missed three games in each of his first two seasons and five in the third. Very un-Newcastle United-like numbers those…

So what he offers, and what he has proven over three seasons in the Premier League, is not only his durability but his class. Backed up, if we needed it, by 43 caps for France.

But maybe he’s another Gallic malcontent. We know them pretty well ourselves… From what I can gather from his histor, that’s not the case. Rafa is the guy with previous here, in fact – usually with his chairmen, admittedly. Plus, love Rafa as I do for the silk purse he made from our pig’s ear of a squad for a few seasons, I look back fondly at the memories but not the football.

The reason Digne won’t just ride this one out – even with Rafa on ever-thinning ice – is that his World Cup spot is at stake. After being first-choice throughout the 2018 qualifying campaign he was edged out by a fit-again Benjamin Mendy when the final squad was named and had to watch them lift the trophy from the same seat we all did. That must have been a right kick in the balls.

Mendy is out of the picture this year (the less we say about that the better…), but this time he is in a fight with Bayern Munich’s Lucas Hernandez. He can see where this one is going, he’s been here before. He has a decent chance of making that squad with top-level game-time (even at a team who will spend the remainder of the season trying to wriggle themselves up to 17th spot). On the Everton’s bench, he might as well stock the fridge and make himself comfortable again.

We may not be his first choice, but I can see that field thinning and if we do get him in, these factors show we have no reason to doubt his desire for the rest of the season. We could get him in with a relegation-clause; we get his skills for six months (at worst), he gets the game-time and his place in Qatar next Christmas.

With him and Trippier on the flanks I would suggest there’s not a better full-back pairing outside the top 3. Their styles are tailor-made for Howe’s formation too, with Maxi cutting in and those two overlapping, adding a totally different dimension to our attacks. Our dead-ball options would go up a notch too.

I’ve grown to quite like Manquillo – god loves a trier, and so do we – but let’s be honest, if he is anywhere near that first team in two years’ time, then something will have gone badly wrong.

Don’t get me started on Lewis… He’s still young, let’s give him that.

I am impressed with the fee we managed to agree for Trippier. We avoided getting gouged by Atletico or hit with the Saudi-premium every paper seems to think was coming. (A lot of big-talk by chairmen I would say, in what is very much a buyer’s market). And I’ll be even more impressed if we get this one in the door. It’s going to be interesting.

Whatever happens the rest of this window and the rest of the season, the “what if’s” are a lot more fun when Shefki Kuqi isn’t one of them.

PETE MARTIN