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Newcastle boss Eddie Howe is confident in-form striker Alexander Isak is an even better player now than the one he signed.

Eyebrows were raised when the Magpies paid a club record £63million for the then 22-year-old Sweden international to Real Sociedad, for whom he had scored just six league goals in his final season, in August 2022.

Isak, now 24, took his tally for the current campaign to 23, 19 of them in the Premier League, with a double in Saturday’s 5-1 victory over Sheffield United as he scored in a seventh successive game at St James’ Park to leave Howe purring over money well spent.

Asked if the former AIK Solna and Borussia Dortmund frontman had improved since his arrival on Tyneside, the head coach said: “Without a doubt. For me, Alex is now a much better player.

Newcastle’s Alexander Isak (left) celebrates scoring his first goal against Sheffield United
Newcastle’s Alexander Isak (left) celebrates scoring his first goal against Sheffield United (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“We signed a very, very good player, an outstanding individual, but I think just naturally from playing in the Premier League, you improve a lot.

“The league is so demanding. Physically, it’s tough and I think Alex would openly admit that. The league is tough for a striker – you’ve got to lead the line and especially with how we play and what we ask our players to do, it’s not easy.

“You can see the effort he has to put in week in, week out. But I have to say that his all-round game has developed lots of different facets that he didn’t have.

“The biggest thing, though, is that I think he’s confident in front of goal. You’ve got to remember he came from us having scored six goals in LaLiga. That confidence needed to come and it gradually did as he started scoring regularly.

“Now he’s probably in the best moment of his career, that would be my assessment. He looks in a really good place and I’m enjoying watching him play.”

Isak’s contribution against the Blades, who were relegated as a result of their defeat, was key as Newcastle recovered from a shambolic start in which they fell behind to Anel Ahmedhodzic’s fifth-minute header and were fortunate not to slip further adrift as Cameron Archer and Ben Brereton Diaz made life intensely uncomfortable.

In the event, the Swede’s expert run and finish from Jacob Murphy’s perfectly-weighted pass ensured they were level at the break, after which it was a different story as Bruno Guimaraes, Isak from the spot and substitute Callum Wilson – who went joint-second in the club’s Premier League scoring stakes on 46 with Peter Beardsley as a result – struck either side of Ben Osborn’s own goal to seal victory.

Newcastle are braced for interest in their star striker this summer, but in the meantime, Howe wants more of the same to aid an ongoing push for Europe.

He said: “I think we’ve set a good foundation for him. But of course the challenge never stops for him. Now it’s to continue to score goals. We need him to keep doing it, which at this level is very difficult.”