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NEWCASTLE: Allan Saint-Maximin is a whole lot more than just a Newcastle United impact sub to head coach Eddie Howe.

In fact, Howe has declared he believes the Frenchman is the best in the business when it comes to dribblers in the Premier League.

Saint-Maximin has endured a difficult season. After kicking off the campaign with a glittering performance against Manchester City and a goal-of-the-season contender at Wolverhampton Wanderers, injury saw the player sit out weeks of action.

And since his return to full fitness, Newcastle’s form has meant the 25-year-old former Nice and Monaco man has been left warming the United bench.

However, that does not mean Howe sees the player as purely a “Plan B.”

Howe said: “He’s absolutely not in that role. He’s a key player from the off, when he’s 100 percent fit.

“For me, if he is unavailable at any time it is a disaster because he’s unique and he’s got those skills that any defender doesn’t want to play against.

“Now, the team has performed really, really well in his absence, which has been a great thing because I just think it adds strength to the team and to the squad.

“Ideally you don’t want to become reliant on any one player. I think if you are, then you’re putting yourself in a very difficult position – and our aim is to try to build the squad strong enough and robust enough that we can cope with any absence.”

Howe continued: “Maxi, along with all the other players, you have to manage.

“He’s a real character and we love him for that. He’s got a really nice personality, he’s really good to work with, but like every player, he’ll want to play, I’ve got no doubt about that, and he’ll be pushing to play, but that’s a great thing for us.

“We want a squad that is competitive with everyone desperate to play, but then respecting those decisions you make at certain times when you don’t get that wish.”

The Magpies tomorrow travel to the East Midlands to take on Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.

It is a trip that holds bad memories for Howe and United, as they were beaten 4-0 there on Dec. 12, 2021.

United will again have to deal with the player who was the catalyst for that Leicester win 12 months ago, James Maddison.

It is understood Howe is a huge fan of the player, but he would not be drawn on any potential move for him.

“Full respect for him and his abilities,” he said.

“I’ve seen him grow from a Football League player to a Premier League player. I think he’s been brilliant and a great advert for the Premier League.

“He’s a Leicester City player and I fully respect that. I’d never talk about another contracted player coming here. He’s a player I do respect.”

While January is unlikely to see a huge net spend for the Magpies, unlike the last two windows, Howe admits exits could be on the agenda.

He said: “I think there could be one or two departures but certainly, from my side, I’d love to keep everyone together.

“I wouldn’t want to necessarily lose anyone at this moment in time but you have to understand the player’s perspective as well. That’s something we’ll try to think about at all times.”

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