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Goalkeeper and Defender confirmed as Rafa Benitez targets

4 years ago

Manchester City announced last week that Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna, Jesus Navas and Willy Caballero would all leave the club when their contracts conclude at the end of June.

When this news came out, not surprisingly Newcastle were one of the clubs linked loosely with potentially picking up one or more of these soon to be free agents.

After the season ended Rafa Benitez had a meeting with Manchester City Director of Football, Txiki Begiristain, ostensibly to discuss Fernando and Eliaquim Mangala, but the discussions were said to have involved other Man City players as well.

Now, the usually very reliable George Caulkin who covers Newcastle United for The Times, says that Willy Caballero is a player that Rafa Benitez is considering making a move for.

Caulkin says that Rafa wants to bring in an experienced keeper and that he has turned to the Argentine 35 year old after missing out on Pepe Reina. The Spanish keeper turns 35 in August and whilst Reina’s agent said on Thursday that the player had decided to stay at Napoli to see out the last year of his contract, George Caulkin states that the fact Napoli were demanding a significant fee for the mature goalkeeper was also a massive barrier to any deal to Newcastle happening.

Caballero himself turns 36 in September but could prove real value for money having picked up eight clean sheets and only conceded 15 goals in his 20 domestic starts last season. The keeper started 25 games in all for Man City in the last campaign with 16 of them in the Premier League.

Willy Caballero joined for £7m from Malaga in summer 2014 and the Argentine keeper was given plenty games by Pep Guardiola this past season, after having been just used as cover (five Premier League starts for Man City in the previous two years).

As always, Manchester City have more players than they know what to do with and clearly Guardiola is having to clear the decks to now bring in more players of his own choosing.

Newcastle United have already stated that the transfer strategy will be one that will include both permanent signings such as Christian Atsu who completed his move on Wednesday, as well as loan deals.

In advance of meeting Mike Ashley, Rafa Benitez had stated that rather than the discussions simply being about how much money he would have to spend, instead he wanted to present a vision of how he could take the club forward and wanted Ashley to buy into that.

It isn’t inconceivable that a significant part of that vision, certainly in the short-term, may well have been making signings of players who previously wouldn’t have been considered by the owner. The likes of Caballero would definitely be an asset to Newcastle as a shorter term proposition, even though he will be on significantly higher wages than most of Newcastle’s current squad.

The Times report says that as well as Tammy Abraham expected to complete his loan move shortly, Rafa Benitez is also keen on signing Florian Lejeune.

The 26 year old Frenchman is another former Manchester City player, kind of.

Lejeune joined Manchester City in 2015 but was then immediately loaned back to Spanish second tier club Girona and didn’t make a single appearance for the Manchester club..

The French central defender can also play defensive midfield and has recently been linked with Arsenal and Tottenham after making a permanent move to La Liga side Eibar last summer, Lejeune helping them to a very credible 10th place in the league.

Florian Lejeune signed a four year deal for Eibar last summer but any transfer fee wouldn’t be prohibitive for Newcastle.

An uncompromising 6ft 3 centre-back, Lejeune picks up a few goals for a defender, scoring nine in the league over the course of the past three seasons. However, he also has a pretty bad disciplinary record, having managed to pick up 11 suspensions in the past four years.

Over the course of 2014/15 and 2015/16 he picked up a remarkable 30 bookings and two red cards in club football, last season though he moderated that a little and had just one sending off and seven yellows.

With the £6.2m signing of Christian Atsu, imminent loan of Tammy Abraham, plus potential deals for Lejeune and Caballero, Rafa Benitez appears to be clearly looking at a major overhaul of the squad. With all positions needing strengthening, it is likely we are going to see a combination of short-term deals with high wages for more experienced players, loan deals for players who at the moment Newcastle wouldn’t be able to attract/afford to buy, as well as the odd major transfer fee to be paid out as well.

In short, Newcastle are at last approaching a Premier League season with a policy of going for the players who are needed, whatever their age/background, rather than some daft rigid policy that involves ruling out most signings, limiting the club to just players of a certain age who may increase in value in the future.


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