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Norwich set to make Jamal Lewis Northern Ireland's most expensive player at £20m

 

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Jamal Lewis of Norwich City

Jamal Lewis of Norwich City

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Jamal Lewis of Norwich City

Norwich City have slapped a £20m price tag on their best young players - including Northern Ireland international Jamal Lewis - following their relegation to the Championship.

And any transfer fee close to £20m would make the 22-year-old Luton man the most expensive player in Northern Ireland's history.

In 2018, midfielder George Saville joined Middlesbrough from Millwall in a permanent deal for around £8m, matching the figure West Brom paid for Jonny Evans from Manchester United in 2015.

Left-back Lewis, who qualifies for Northern Ireland through his Belfast-born mother, is now among the Canaries young guns being hunted by top flight sides following their Premier League exit.

One possible destination for the defender is a move to Brendan Rodgers' Champions League-chasing Leicester City, where left-back Ben Chilwell has attracted significant transfer interest. Lewis, who has made 12 Northern Ireland appearances, and the club's other gifted youngsters, Max Aarons, Todd Cantwell, Ben Godfrey and Emiliano Buendia, are now wanted men but Norwich's sporting director Stuart Webber insists they won't go cheaply.

"We are difficult to negotiate with when we are selling, and we hold all the cards on our young players," he said. "Not one of them has less than three years left on their contracts. They owe us, we owe them.

"They are homegrown, and British players cost more. That is almost a Premier League tax these days.

"If it is top clubs, like when Leicester City came in for James Maddison, you have to respect they can pay him and us a lot of money, and the player has his own personal ambitions, but will we sell someone on the cheap just because they say they want to go? No chance.

"The staff here know I am fair, and it won't be deluded figures we ask for, but we also need good characters to get us back up. We got just over £20m for Maddison, after one season in the Championship, and we needed the money.

"So, what I would be saying to people is please have a look at that before you pick up the phone to us. That has set the benchmark for our club."

Lewis is under contract until 2023 but, speaking to the Belfast Telegraph shortly before the Premier League restart last month, he admitted that he doesn't intend to drop down a division now that he has a taste for the top level.

"Everyone personally wants to get to the highest level they can," he said.

"I would love to play Champions League and I feel like definitely within a couple of years I'll be at a quality where I'm able to do that. I've got a taste of the Premier League this year and I want to play in this league week in, week out for the rest of my career.

"Everyone has their individual goals that they set and those are a few of mine. I intend to hit them."

Belfast Telegraph