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Opinion

If this Newcastle signing happens we’ll know Rafa Benitez is back in full control of transfers

3 years ago
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Rafa Benitez was once again let down by Mike Ashley in this latest transfer window.

The Manager making public that he had given the Newcastle United owner a list of transfer targets back in December, having done much of the preparation work himself on setting up deals.

Saying he wanted all signings to be made as early as possible, so that he would be able to work with them as soon as possible and make an impact in as many matches as possible.

When the transfer window opened, Newcastle still had 17 Premier League matches left to play.

One of the three loan deals that Rafa Benitez was allowed to make, was Islam Slimani.

Picking up an injury in training only days before the loan deal was completed, Slimani is set to have only 10 games at the very most to start and make an impact.

In recent days the striker has only been involved in parts of training, so at the very best he will be on the bench against Man Utd.

Then with Leicester one of the games remaining, that brings it down to 10 matches where he could possibly start.

However, on Friday, it was interesting to hear Islam Slimani already happy to talk about the possibility of making his move to Newcastle permanent in the summer.

This would be an interesting departure for Rafa Benitez if it did happen and apparent confirmation he is back fully in control of transfers.

The Summer saw the United boss make clear a number of times that he was looking to bring in experienced players to help keep Newcastle in the Premier League.

Rafa Benitez has also spoken often about it not being just about how much money he has to spend but being able to do the deals that he wants to do and making them quickly, to avoid too much competition from elsewhere.

Rafa of course didn’t get much backing in terms of the amount of cash he was allowed to spend in the summer (or indeed January) and that got most of the headlines.

However, it was also very noticeable, at least to me, that clearly any deals he’d set up for older (no/low chance of any future profit) players were not followed through by Mike Ashley and his minions.

Short-term high wage deals for the likes of veteran keepers Pepe Reina and Willy Caballero were amongst the most public targets that Rafa wasn’t allowed to bring in.

Instead we had Murphy (22 when signed), Atsu (25), Lejeune (26), Manquillo (23) and Merino (21), before finally the desperate £5m budget deal for 27 year old Joselu when it became clear to Rafa that he wasn’t going to be properly backed by Ashley.

Islam Slimani cost £27m only 18 months ago and whilst he will go for lower than that this summer, he is still likely to command a fee of somewhere around Newcastle’s transfer record of £16m (set 13 years ago…).

Islam Slimani will also be 30 years old when the summer transfer window opens.

So if both Mike Ashley and Rafa Benitez are still at Newcastle and Islam Slimani was signed, you would be looking at a £16m fee or maybe more for a player you’d be unlikely to get anything back on, or very little, as well as him becoming Newcastle’s highest earner (as a minimum would have to match his Leicester wages) on at least a four year contract.

That very definitely wouldn’t fit in with the transfers Mike Ashley has allowed in recent times. Yes both Gamez and Murphy were signed but both were given short-term contracts and cost very little to bring in, minimal compared to what say Slimani would cost.

This is reality though, if Rafa Benitez is to bring in anything like the quality needed, if Newcastle stay up, then he has to be allowed to wheel and deal and a big part of that must be bringing in better class older players who there won’t be any future profit on.

Islam Slimani asked if he could move permanently to Newcastle in the Summer:

“Yes, I’m just on loan at the minute but if I could stay here, I’d be very happy.

“So let’s see how it goes.

“The big difference is that he (Rafa Benitez) trusts me and when you have the trust of your coach, that is very important.

“They trusted me at Leicester, it’s not that I wasn’t trusted.

“I started well there but then I was dogged by bad health and injuries.”
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