The season ended on a positive note for Newcastle United on Sunday and after the celebrations had faded away, no surprise that transfer budgets and Rafa Benitez reaching agreement with Mike Ashley, is the topic that has monopolise debate ever since.
Indeed this has been the case for 16 days now, with promotion confirmed after the win over Preston and thoughts finally able to turn to what happens next.
From Stan Collymore to Ian Wright to Alan Shearer, everybody is having their say about the level of transfer budget Rafa Benitez should be given and/or who he should spend it on.
The United boss said ahead of meeting Mike Ashley on Tuesday night, that it wasn’t about going in and asking for a certain figure in terms of a transfer budget, more the fact that he needs the club’s owner to agree to support the overall plans and strategy he has for turning the club around.
That is a good politician’s answer but somewhere amongst it all, Rafa needs to have a ballpark figure of what kind of money he is going into battle with. No point later on telling Ashley/Charnley that he wants them to go and sign whoever, if the reply is guaranteed to be ‘not a chance’.
So figures will play a big part in any overall agreement but how much should Rafa expect to be given to enable Newcastle to go into next season with a realistic expectation of aiming for mid-table. Which has to be the minimum aim, even it is with the acceptance that if Newcastle fall short, just comfortably surviving in the first season up would also be a decent result.
Alan Shearer and Ian Wright have said £150m or more but ironically those figures have then led many Newcastle fans to go the other way.
I even saw an article on The Mag, yesterday I think, where somebody was saying they’d rather see ‘Rafa spending £50m wisely’ than expecting some massive spending spree.
The answer I think is somewhere in between.
Nobody wants money to be spent just for the sake of it and just because Rafa gets a budget of £XXm or £XXXm, it doesn’t mean he will necessarily spend it all. What is important though is that he goes into the transfer window knowing that the money is there, if he decides to press the button on a particular player(s).
I think that there are a couple of problems when it comes to many Newcastle fans processing what is needed in terms of finance.
Firstly, you have the fact that under Mike Ashley’s ownership, fans have constantly had their expectations hammered down and lost sight of the fact that Newcastle are a massive club and are capable of potentially aiming high and staying there. It won’t necessarily happen overnight but no reason why with good management the club couldn’t compete at the top end in years to come. Clubs such as Tottenham and Leicester have showed that whilst Manchester United’s commercial arm produces an endless stream of golden bars, their financial advantage doesn’t always translate to the pitch.
Secondly, there is far too much over-reliance in Rafa Benitez being able to sort it out no matter what happens above and around him at St James Park. That is totally unrealistic and the fact is that the Manager needs every bit of help, financial and otherwise, if he is to make a real go of it at Newcastle.
Talk of spending £50m wisely is optimism in the extreme.
Also, when you consider that the club confirmed that Rafa Benitez has made them a £40m profit on transfers so far, and Thauvin will leave for £10m this summer, that is your £50m generated before you get to Premier League TV cash and other players who will be sold.
Again, if Rafa can find half a dozen quality players who cost less than £10m and can come straight in and play in our team next season, all the better, but that is not real life.
An additional problem that some Newcastle fans also have is that they don’t appear to have kept up with just how quickly the transfer market is moving. As more money comes into the Premier League, so it goes out the other end on transfers.
A better way of understanding what is needed maybe…
This past season we saw over £50m spent to put together a squad capable of getting promotion. As Rafa has repeatedly said, this was a squad built with the sole/overriding purpose of getting promotion – with the indication that many of the players brought in were for the short-term and wouldn’t be seen as ones who could then carry on into the Premier League.
So thoughts that £50m would be able to build a Premier League squad this summer are way off the mark.
The relegation (2015/16) season saw transfer spending that was far too late, with Mike Ashley having refused to allow proper squad strengthening in previous seasons and three of the four transfer windows (summer 2013, January 2014, January 2015) not seeing a single player bought. This being despite the likes of Yohan Cabaye being sold for £18m.
An average spend in summer 2014 was far too low to put right right the lack of previous funding, plus we saw yet more disastrous Ashley/Carr signings such as de Jong, Riviere and Cabella, as ‘bargains’ from weaker overseas leagues was the only plan.
Relegation was only avoided on the final day of the season and that then led to the appointment of a head coach (McClaren) and the club making clear that he would have no say on transfers. So even though the spend went up (over £50m), it was once again under the disastrous Ashley/Carr plan of looking for young players (Thuavin, Wijnadlum, Mbemba and Mitrovic) who could grow in value – the only problem being that recruiting a 24 year old, 22 year old and two 20 year olds from weaker leagues, was always likely to lead to disaster as they couldn’t be expected to all step up to Premier League level instantly and save us from another relegation fight.
More panic spending followed in January 2015, with over £30m invested on Shelvey, Townsend, Saivet and Doumbia.
Townsend and Shelvey raised the quality to a degree but it wasn’t enough, panic buying on largely the wrong players had proved not enough to rescue the situation.
So moving back to the present day, if Mike Ashley thought it was a good idea to spend almost £90m to try and save a desperate situation of his own making in 2015/16, surely a budget of £100m or so to enable Rafa Benitez to try and put solid foundations in place, is an essential investment that needs to be made.
Also, just look at the players who most of us see as those who should more or less comfortably be able to do it at the top level next season.
Jonjo Shelvey (£14m), Matt Ritchie (£12m), Dwight Gayle (£10m) and Ciaran Clark (£5m).
Clark had a clause in his contract allowing him to leave for that amount but with the likes of the other three (and £13m Andros Townsend if he’d stayed) costing between £10m and £14m as players to get Newcastle promoted and/or save us from relegation, what do fans expect needs to be spent this summer?
Palace paid £30m for Benteke and his goals look to have kept them up, Everton paid £30m for Lukaku two years ago and he has been instrumental in how they have done.
Do I expect us to spend £30m on just one player? I don’t really know but if we do, then I wouldn’t think it was Newcastle punching above their weight, or spending over the odds.
Indeed, Newcastle banked around £55m by just selling Sissoko and Wijnaldum a year ago, so with rising prices overall, I would think it very strange if Newcastle don’t sign at least one or two players for £20m or more this summer.
This is the real world and if our club is to be successful, then as well as any bargain buys, Newcastle have to be able to shell out the cash for proven players, with Rafa Benitez given the cash to do so.
(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])