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Opinion

Hopes of landing secret Rafa Benitez signings now all but faded

4 years ago
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Rafa Benitez may not have spoken about the transfer window this summer but his ongoing presence at the club reassure supporters that this is not the time to panic just yet.

The United boss chose not to speak when Florian Lejeune met the assembled media for the first time on Thursday.

Fans obviously interested to hear what Rafa will have to say when he allows himself to be questioned about the transfer window and season preparations, whenever that may be.

Possibly ahead of, or in the aftermath of, Friday’s friendly at Hearts?

At the weekend there were claims in the local media that Rafa Benitez was holding off speaking to the media, until he had more signings through the door and something more of substance to talk about.

Fair to say that supporters are divided to varying degrees as to whether the necessary signings will still be made in the near future.

It was always likely to be a tough transfer window to negotiate, considering the amount of money the other 19 Premier League clubs have to spend, plus Newcastle’s status as a newly promoted club.

However, once again it was hoped that the presence of our Spanish manager would help to convince players that Newcastle are a club once again moving in the right direction.

There is though one hope that hasn’t materialised…

Newcastle fans did generally hope that Rafa Benitez would have signings lined up to enable the squad to hit the ground running. Players identified by the manager well  ahead of the transfer window opening and then the deals formally go through and the new signings ready to join in with pre-season training from the start.

The hope/expectation being that Rafa would have been able to get the jump on other clubs and whilst unrealistic to think Premier League quality players could be brought in at a pittance, certainly there was belief that he may have players lined up who would be very good value for money and possibly not obvious signings to others.

Last season we saw Rafa Benitez make three key signings by 1 July 2016, bringing in a new first choice keeper in Matz Sels, a new number nine in the shape of Dwight Gayle, plus the goals and creativity of Matt Ritchie.

Sels was certainly a surprise move and landing a goalkeeper who was in the Belgian national squad and who had won the domestic league and played Champions League football in the previous two seasons – it was a bit of a potential coup that he had agreed to come to the English second tier.

Dwight Gayle and Matt Ritchie were in no way unknown quantities but on the other hand it was a surprise/shock that both were willing to drop from Premier League clubs to the Championship. Significant spending of almost £30m on the trio certainly reassured Newcastle fans that there was intent from Rafa and the club to try and bounce straight back.

However, hopes have surely faded now that Rafa Benitez had any similar key signings lined up well in advance of July, or alternatively he did have players in mind but they wouldn’t come, or Newcastle wouldn’t pay the transfer fees and wages.

Bottom line is that the low key permanent deal for Christian Atsu went through in May without seemingly any interest from elsewhere, whilst Florian Lejeune’s signing took some six weeks as Newcastle tried to get a better deal, meaning of course that at any time another club could have come in and potentially made a more attractive offer.

So secret early Rafa signings aren’t going to be the key to any success this coming season. It would make no sense now for any delay in announcing signings, as pre-season training is well underway and the first friendly is this Friday.

Instead, any transfer activity now will simply see Newcastle United competing with every other club for what will be a common pool of players, having to offer at least the same transfer fee and wages as other clubs do, if the Magpies are to land any targets.

With no hidden advantage, can Newcastle make the necessary signings and will Mike Ashley be prepared to offer the levels of money needed to get the right players in, as identified by Rafa Benitez?

(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])

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