It isn’t just the price tags that make the signings of Georginio Wijnaldum and Aleksandar Mitrovic a change from the norm, I think it is also important looking at the number of international caps they’ve won.
Mitrovic has already picked up 13 senior caps for Serbia despite still being only 20 years of age, whilst Wijnaldum has 20 for Holland and he’s 24.
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These are the signings of the past four years who had 10 or more international caps when they signed for Newcastle United, their age and then the number of caps in brackets when arriving at St James Park:
20 (13) Aleksandar Mitrovic
24 (20) Georginio Wijnaldum
24 (22) Daryl Janmaat
27 (13) Mathieu Debuchy
26 (11) Demba Ba
26 (10+) Papiss Cisse
I think it is fair to say that the other four on this list have all proved to be a success for Newcastle, both Debuchy and Janmaat arguably the player of the season in the last two years, whilst both Ba and Cisse (difficult to find stats of exactly when he won each of his 30+ Senegal Caps but definitely in double figures when he signed for NUFC) have the goals to put on the table to prove their worth.
Playing for your country isn’t everything but a bit like going for a job interview I think it is a massive reference when your country rates you so highly.
These are the other signings Newcastle have made in this period, with again, age and then number of caps in brackets at the point they signed for Newcastle:
20 (0) Jamaal Lascelles
23 (0) Karl Darlow
24 (0) Emmanuel Riviere
24 (0) Jack Colback
24 (1) Remy Cabella
20 (0) Ayoze Perez
25 (6) Siem de Jong
23 (1) Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa
26 (0) Yoan Gouffran
20 (0) Massadio Haidara
22 (5) Moussa Sissoko
23 (2) Vurnon Anita
20 (7) Davide Santon
25 (3) Yohan Cabaye
25 (0) Sylvain Marveaux
22 (0) Gabriel Obertan
25 (0) Rob Elliot
Obviously the likes of Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sissoko prove that you can be up to standard without having loads of caps behind you, whilst others such as Ayoze Perez would have been an unlikely signing for NUFC if he had already been playing for Spain before he was 20 years of age.
However, I think there is a big general divide when buying established players, especially from other countries, when it comes to whether they are also playing international football.
Last summer I looked at 24 year old Daryl Janmaat with 22 caps and first choice for Holland out in Brazil, I thought he looks a great signing.
Newcastle desperate for a quality striker and we buy 24 year old Emmanuel Riviere who has never even been called up by France before and I thought hmmm.
To be honest I wasn’t that enamoured with Remy Cabella and Siem de Jong either when I looked at their international record.
Remember, Newcastle need players who can perform in the top half of the Premier League and these two signings were supposedly the ones who would do the really difficult job of creating and scoring goals.
When they signed, Cabella was 24 and had 10 minutes of substitute action under his belt for France, whilst Siem de Jong was 25 and had appeared 6 times for the Netherlands, though only 4 minutes in a competitive game – the other five appearances in friendlies.
Jack Colback is not my favourite player but when he signed he’d already shown he was a steady Premier League performer, so we knew what we were getting despite his zero caps.
When we buy players from abroad then what else have we really to go on, other than stats and youtube clips which by their very nature show players doing something decent.
Therefore, you’d be daft if you didn’t look at what they had done for their countries and whether the national set-up rate them.
Obertan, Marveaux, Anita and Gouffran had two caps between them when they arrived and now after 15 years between them at Newcastle they still only have Vurnon Anita’s two international caps between them.
Only quality will drag Newcastle out of the mess that Mike Ashley has dragged us into by under investing in the squad for years AND wasting a relative fortune on budget cheaper foreign players who clearly didn’t have the right credentials.
As well as what they have done in league football, both Wijnaldum and Mitrovic have the international caps that suggests they are going to be stars in the years to come.
Imminent signing Chancel Mbemba is also already a regular for DR Congo despite being only 20.
These type of signings suggest Mike Ashley has learnt his lesson but more are needed to fix the damage done, both in this transfer window and the ones to come.
The four friendlies so far have been against low quality opposition and yet the results and performances have shown that the same problems are still there at both ends of the pitch.
Wijnaldum and Mitrovic can be a big part of the solution but they can’t do it alone, more international quality players are needed – and fast.