For any newly promoted side, the Summer transfer window is imperative. For a squad packed with ego, mediocrity and failure, Newcastle’s is vital.
When Florian Lejeune stepped out onto Benton for the first time last Monday, you’d be forgiven if you didn’t notice him. It wasn’t however for the fault of the new 6ft 3in French import that he wasn’t seen.
Its groundhog day once again on Tyneside as Rafa Benitez faces another summer of rebuilding.
Still present is a man who has gone over two years without a goal, during spells both at St. James’ and in Spain at Osasuna. That man is Emmanuel Riviere, who still has a year left on the four-year deal which he signed when joining from Monaco for £6m.
As well as Riviere, there 14 others who could be shown the door over the next two months. They are: Henri Saivet, Grant Hanley, Massadio Haidara, Achraf Lazaar, Siem de Jong, Tim Krul, Karl Darlow, Daryl Murphy. Rolando Aarons, Chancel Mbemba, Jack Colback and Aleksandar Mitrovic could all also be on their way depending on how United’s business goes; while England U20 World Cup winners Adam Armstrong and Freddie Woodman are set to go back out on loan to gain more experience.
That means that half of the first team squad could leave this Summer.
Last summer, the story was much the same. 12 players came in and 24 departed. Despite spending around £57m, United still managed to make a £30m net profit, with Moussa Sissoko, Gini Wijnaldum and Andros Townsend all leaving for substantial sums.
Ahead of this year’s re-building programme, Benitez has already terminated Head Scout Graham Carr’s contract. Father of celebrity talk-show host Alan, Carr was given an eight-year contract in June 2012 after unearthing an array of gems from across Europe who helped Newcastle to finish fifth in the 2011/12 season.
Replaced by the club’s U21 scout Steve Nickson, who becomes Head of Recruitment, Benitez is trying to create a culture of trust within the club. It was only six months ago, when owner Mike Ashley refused to back Benitez in the January transfer window.
Benitez wanted Andros Townsend to make a swift return to SJP from Crystal Palace, who he had joined for £13m just six months previously. The same figure was mooted for a return, or a loan deal with an option to buy, but Ashley didn’t think it was viable. From this tensions escalated but ultimately Ashley was justified as Newcastle lifted the Championship trophy on the final day of the season.
Off-season meetings were held and Benitez agreed to stay. Promises were made about the club’s lofty ambition. Targets were set. A £100m budget was quoted across the media.
With the first pre-season game this Friday away at Hearts, Newcastle have signed just two players. The aforementioned Lejuene’s £8.8m release clause was activated to bring him over from Eibar, while Christian Atsu made his loan move from Chelsea permanent for £6m.
Townsend in fact excelled towards the end of the season, playing in 14 of Palace’s last 15 games after the window closed, with the chances of the deal being revived seemingly null.
Linked with Adama Traore, Sheyi Ojo, Jesus Navas and Jacob Murphy, it’s clear Benitez wants to bolster his flanks, with just Matt Ritchie, Rolando Aarons and Atsu in the squad as recognised wingers.
The media circus that surrounds the club continues its fanfare, with no player seemingly any closer to donning the famous black and white stripes for the first time come Sunday 6th August.
In need of a keeper, left back, centre midfielder, number 10, striker and of course at least one winger; Newcastle’s squad for their return to the top flight is far from complete. However, with just £15m spent of the apparent £100m, it’s not panic stations just quite yet.
Written by Oliver Stevenson.