There was much relief back in May 2016 for Newcastle fans, as Rafa Benitez confirmed that he would be staying at the club to try and help NUFC make an instant return to the Premier League.
The newspapers all ran pretty much the same story, suggesting they had been briefed by somebody at the club, reporting that Rafa had been satisfied with the assurances he had been given on his Championship transfer budget.
They all agreed that the deal was that the Spaniard had been guaranteed money to spend by Mike Ashley, regardless of any transfer surplus that he generated by selling players, with any extra cash from sales being added to his guaranteed budget. That guaranteed figure being widely reported as around the £20m mark.
Rafa Benitez did indeed bring in plenty of players, 11 permanent deals and Christian Atsu on a loan with a view to a permanent move at the end of the season.
As well as those coming into St James Park, even more players left – Coloccini, Sissoko, Taylor, Wijnaldum, Townsend, Janmaat and many more.
Moussa Sissoko leaving for £30m on the final day of the summer 2016 transfer window was a massive bonus, too late for that bonus cash to be used by Rafa in the first half of the season, but the prospect of more signings able to be made in January 2017 – with the intention of them being able to help guarantee promotion and/or help Rafa ready his team/squad for the Premier League.
On 11 April 2017, Newcastle United released details of their accounts for the 2015/16 season BUT also chose to reveal that Rafa Benitez had made a massive £40m profit on transfers in the summer 2016 window.
So if you backtrack, if Rafa had a minimum of a £20m transfer kitty before the summer 2016 window opened, then adding £40m of transfer surplus trading meant that Rafa Benitez was £60m ahead of the game and that was his starting point for the January window.
Instead of course, not a single signing was made in January 2017 and Rafa Benitez came out in public to voice his anger and frustration, before then saying they simply had to get on with the job in hand (promotion) with the squad he already had.
I think it is reasonable to assume that Rafa Benitez and the Newcastle fans would all have seen this £60m as an absolute minimum of what he could attack the summer 2017 transfer window with. Hopefully with Ashley consenting to allow extra cash to be added to that figure, plus whatever the manager could raise extra from more player sales.
After a meeting between club owner and manager very soon after the season ended, a club statement was released, indicating that Rafa Benitez wasn’t leaving and quotes from both saying talks had been productive and all positive heading into the summer preparations for the Premier League return.
Whilst Alan Shearer talked of £150m needing to be spent to get Newcastle United into decent shape, the newspapers all ran a very similar story once again after it was confirmed Rafa was staying.
Shearer may have been saying £150m but the newspapers universally came up with a figure of around £80m, you would always hope for more but that seemed a realistic figure, especially considering the previous reports of the £20m Rafa had to spend a year previous, regardless of selling players, plus that £40m summer 2016 surplus he had produced for the club.
As was the case a year earlier, it certainly appeared from the outside that the journalists had been briefed by somebody from Newcastle United, the £80m figure reassuring supporters that Rafa Benitez would have a workable budget that could hopefully ensure a standard of signing could be made that should ensure no relegation struggle.
It is the final friendly today, a week before the season starts, and less than four weeks until the transfer window closes, yet Rafa Benitez appears to have been almost totally starved of funds.
Five signings made so far at a cost of around £30m, whilst around £13m has been recouped on Thauvin, Mbabu and (Daryl) Murphy.
My maths might not be the best but it tells me a net spend of only £17m this summer, a figure less than even what Rafa Benitez was supposedly guaranteed a year ago for dealing with the Championship…and that was before selling over £90m worth of players!
So who is misleading who?
Is it the club having fun with the journalists/newspapers, or is it the papers misleading the supporters?
More worryingly, is it the club (Mike Ashley) misleading everybody, including Rafa Benitez…?
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