Joe Willock is confident he has made “the right move to the right club at the right time” after completing a permanent switch from Arsenal to Newcastle.
The 21-year-old, who scored in each of his last seven Premier League appearances for the Magpies during a hugely successful loan spell last season, has signed a long-term deal.
Head coach Steve Bruce revealed on Friday morning he would be at the club for six years – for an undisclosed fee which it is understood could eventually amount to £25million.
That makes him the club’s second most expensive acquisition after £40million striker Joelinton and, although he was not registered in time to play a part in Sunday’s opening fixture against West Ham, he hopes to write a new chapter in his fledgling career starting at Aston Villa next weekend.
Willock, who will wear the number 28 shirt, said: “I’m buzzing to be here. I loved my time here last season and I’m really happy to be back and to be a Newcastle United player.
“Leaving Arsenal is obviously a big step, and I’d like to thank everyone involved with the club for all their support over the years, but this is the right move to the right club at the right time for me.
“I only got one chance to play in front of a smaller number of Newcastle fans as a home player last season, so I can’t wait to step out in front of a packed St. James’ Park and experience that atmosphere.”
Willock’s capture ends a summer-long pursuit for Magpies head coach Steve Bruce, who made the midfielder his number one target after his exploits at the end of the last campaign helped to ease the club out of relegation trouble.
Amid suggestions that he might have as little as £10million to spend, Bruce was grateful to owner Mike Ashley and managing director Lee Charnley for sanctioning the move.
The former Manchester United defender said: “We have had to be patient and persistent, but it has been worth the wait to bring Joe back.
“I want to thank Lee Charnley in particular for the work he has put in to make the deal happen. The club have gone above and beyond to make it possible.
“Joe is a wonderful young player with all the attributes you want in a midfielder, and he certainly proved that during his time with us last season.”
Willock’s impending arrival will overshadow a significant day for goalkeeper Freddie Woodman, who has spent the last two season on loan at Swansea, for whom he played in the Sky Bet Championship play-off final against Brentford in May.
The 24-year-old is line to make his Premier League debut with Martin Dubravka nursing a foot injury and Karl Darlow still recovering from the after-effects of a bout of Covid-19.
Bruce said: “Somebody’s injury or illness has opened the door and here’s now Freddie’s chance and to be fair to the kid, that always what he’s wanted, so let’s hope he grasps it.”