Positive movement on Wednesday regarding the Amanda Staveley Newcastle takeover, including a reported recruitment meeting in due course, following the reported agreement that funds will be made available in January. Without jumping the proverbial gun, the question now turns to; who will Rafa Benitez choose to bring in if the takeover makes more progress?
The old adage remains that players in form for their club sides are unlikely to leave in January. That is true, which will mean any moves that are made in January are likely to be expensive in order to prise away a key player from another club.
Newcastle United are an attractive proposition to players with Benítez at the helm but are also a team likely to be battling relegation come the end of the season. Transfer targets will be forced to make a decision for the good of their careers, which will either benefit or hinder the fortunes of Newcastle.
There are a few criteria that dictate whether a player moves in the January transfer window. One of which is that he is surplus to requirements at his current club.
Last season’s winter window displayed that, as Napoli’s Manolo Gabbiadini moved to Southampton for £15.3m. Similarly, Morgan Schneiderlin made the move to Everton from Manchester United for £20.6m, along with Memphis Depay departing for Ligue 1 Lyon for a fee in the region of £14.4m, as Jose Mourinho moved on players he did not consider good enough for the club.
Another criterion for a January move is that a club is known to need reinforcements and they will actively pay over the odds for a player from a rival team. Once again in January 2017, this was evident, mainly due to Sam Allardyce’s spending spree at Crystal Palace. Big Sam spent just over £35m on Luka Milivojevic, Patrick van Aanholt and Jeff Schlupp, a sum which was twice as much than their combined believed market value at that time. Palace subsequently survived the drop but they were held to ransom by other clubs when in pursuit of the players they needed.
Likewise, West Ham United paid over the odds for Hull City’s Robert Snodgrass in a panic move to replace Dimitri Payet, forking out over £10.8m for a 29-year-old winger who failed to make any impact. This was another indication of a selling club recognising the need for the buying club to purchase said player and therefore forcing the price up because they know of the buying club’s need to sign that player.
As seen with Demarai Gray’s move to Leicester City in the January of their title-winning campaign, and Wilfred Ndidi’s move to the King Power Stadium during the last January window, there is the market for Premier League clubs signing young players from lesser clubs during the winter window.
Gray moved from Birmingham City and took some time to establish himself in the side, but after last weekend’s display at St James Park, it isn’t hard to see why Claude Puel is now favouring the England U-21 man.
Meanwhile, Ndidi was a star man for Belgian side KRC Genk and while he did command a fee just shy of £16m, he has proven his worth by being an excellent holding midfielder in his first calendar year with the Foxes.
There are a multitude of dangers in signing players to ‘save your season’ in January. Whether they do not gel well with their new teammates and take a few months to adapt to their new team and surroundings, or simply do not live up to their expectations feeling the pressure of a large transfer fee. There are various dangers and that is something that must be considered and consequently combated if necessary in Benitez’ decision-making during this upcoming window.
The danger is evident; signing a player hardly at the nadir of their career and not getting the best out of them as a result. We only need to look at the recent January additions of Henri Saivet and on-loan Seydou Doumbia to prove that without diligent consideration and scouting of a transfer target, their opportunities will be limited and the purchase will have been a waste.
Benitez’ approach to the January transfer window is unlikely to be as misguided as that of messrs McClaren or Carr, but if funds are made available, then the likelihood is that Rafa will go after his top targets that he believes will be assets to the current squad.
A goalkeeper, a striker and a full-back spring to mind. Speculating on the personnel would simply be conjecture as very few people will have knowledge of who Rafa is thinking about bringing in. Nevertheless, in terms of January signings – should they materialise – they will likely fall into one of those aforementioned categories.