The question marks over Rafa Benitez, have deflected a lot of attention away from the fact that there is an awful lot of work to be done in sorting out so many Newcastle players this close season.
Never before had NUFC loaned out so many players in a season as in 2017/18, there were many young players of course, but also a serious number of senior unwanted players who couldn’t attract a buyer.
These seven players will all be looking for new clubs this summer and apart from Aleksandar Mitrovic, each could find it a struggle unless they are prepared to compromise on wages:
When it comes to Newcastle players who Rafa Benitez will definitely want to keep, I think most of us would come up with a similar list.
My 10 sure things would be:
Jonjo Shelvey, Jamaal Lascelles, Mohamed Diame, Florian Lejeune, Matt Ritchie, Paul Dummett, DeAndre Yedlin, Ayoze Perez, Ciaran Clark. Dwight Gayle
Most of these players were regulars in the impressive late run of form that ensure Premier League safety with still over a month of the season remaining.
I know many Newcastle fans might not include Dwight Gayle but even if Rafa manages to land a quality goalscorer, preferably two, this summer, he will still need back up and Gayle will surely be kept no matter what.
As for Ciaran Clark, he might not have featured in the later stages but he is versatile and has shown he is very capable throughout his two years at Newcastle, so another no-brainer to keep.
After that, I think we are getting into the maybe/maybe not territory.
No disrespect to Jacob Murphy but I think if Rafa could get the £10m back on him, then he would do so. Not that I am writing him off but I’m sure Benitez would see that money better used elsewhere now, Murphy has promise but he still has a long way to go. I think he will stay as part of the squad regardless.
As for Mikel Merino, he is probably the big one, obviously talented and if he can’t get a regular game, there is sure to be interest in taking him back to Spain.
As for others….I see Christian Atsu, Isaac Hayden, Rob Elliot, Javier Manquillo, Joselu and Karl Darlow all players who Rafa Benitez won’t maybe be desperate to get rid of – but if anybody comes in with a decent offer, he would be happy to trade them and hope to bring in better quality, even as cover.
The end of season run-in showed what little strength in depth there was, so some serious work on the squad needed this summer.