Rafael Benitez made astute use of the loan market in January but will wish to add more permanent depth to his squad this summer and build upon last season’s successes. The loan acquisitions at the turn of the year included Kenedy and Martin Dubravka, to great success. Although due to injury and suspension Slimani was a disappointing addition – despite showing promise in his few performances.
Regardless of Slimani’s indifferent experience at Newcastle, Benitez should be commended for masterminding Newcastle’s safe return to the top flight on a stringent budget. Survival was reached with an element of security that isn’t normally associated with Newcastle, which is food for thought as to what Benitez might accomplish with the spending power of the teams immediately around them – Leicester City spent approximately £50 million more to finish just a single place above. The Spaniard will, however, expect a greater fund this window to bring in talent and quite frankly his pedigree deserves greater than the £33 million Mike Ashley dealt him last summer.
With regards to this window, Dubravka has committed to continuing his stay on Tyneside, after producing consistent outstanding performances that helped the Magpies avoid the drop last term. This was a defining acquisition in transforming Newcastle’s season from a relegation battle to mid-table security if the Slovakian is able to maintain his previous form £4 million is a steal.
As well as this, The Magpies have secured South Korean midfielder Ki Sung-Yeung following the expiration of his contract at Swansea. The 29-year-old made over 130 Premier League appearances for the Swans, being voted Player of the Year for the 2014/15 season. Ki is also captain of the South Korean national team, but hinted at international retirement after their exit from the World Cup.
Other additions will be required to maintain last season’s progress, as the squad lacks technical ability in multiple positions. Adama Traore is someone who has been consistently linked with a move to Newcastle, the former La Masia graduate has a ferocious physicality few can match, but question marks remain over his decision making in games. Far too often Traore uses his searing pace to bust through the opposition midfield only to produce little end product. However, Benitez is tactically adept and as shown with Kenedy previously, could significantly improve Traore’s discipline in the final third.
Further forward, Josh King has expressed his discontent at playing out wide for current side Bournemouth and would appear to be threatening to make an exit if not played as a central striker. Newcastle might offer to make him the focal point of their attack, despite last terms haul of eight goals being disappointing from the Norwegian’s perspective. However, he doubled that the previous campaign playing a central role and it’s obvious this is where he’s most effective. Even so, his acquisition will still fail to satisfy Newcastle fans thirst for a striker to fill the void left by Shearer.
Martin Skrtel has also been linked with a romantic return to the Premier League under his former manager, in spite of his age, an experienced presence accompanying Jamal Lascelles could solidify the Magpies defence. That is if Lascelles chooses to stay after reported interest from both Liverpool and Everton.
Another defensive departure could occur in the form of Chancel Mbemba, he only made nine appearances last season and five of those were losses. He has undoubted potential, but has failed to realise it under Benitez and appears out of the manager’s plans. This has led to links with former club Anderlecht, as well as Hoffenheim and it would be unsurprising to seem the Congolese centre-back develop his career elsewhere.
Regardless of who Newcastle sign this transfer period, it’s imperative Benitez remains at the helm, as he is the lynchpin of the Magpies success. A departure would only serve to sour the already tense relationship between the chairman and the fans.
Written by Harvey Sayer.