First things first – I love Rafa Benitez.
After all, why wouldn’t I? What he has accomplished already, as Newcastle manager, has been outstanding. I don’t need to tell any of you that.
I also don’t need to tell you to imagine what he could accomplish if he had a bit more financial backing behind him.
Rafa’s not naive, however, and, with all the will in the world, the money’s not going to come straight from Mike Ashley’s back pocket. Whatever budget he is given has to be supplemented from player sales and by the freeing up of heavy wage packets.
Today alone, I’ve read half-stories about Chancel Mbemba, Matz Sels and Aleksandar Mitrovic all looking at moving on. If the rumours are true, the combined funds that these sales would allegedly generate are somewhere between £20m and £30 million. And, that upper figure is very much looking on the bright side.
Even if that’s not the final sum, however, to trim the squad of three superfluous players (and their wages) has to be a step in the right direction.
What we’ve got to be wary of, however, is allowing any cash to go to our head.
When Benitez was Liverpool manager, he made some very questionable signings. Alberto Aquilani, anyone? How about Albert Riera? Ryan Babel? Robbie Keane had a rare duff spell in the red of Rafa’s Liverpool.
Now, it could be argued that, during his six-year spell on Merseyside, Benitez did win the Champions League (reaching the final twice in total in his tenure) and the FA Cup, as well as consistent top four finishes in the league. So, if that’s the result of how he does business, who is anyone to argue? Let alone a Newcastle fan, starved of silverware.
My concern in all of this is that, amongst the great and the good that put pen to paper for him at Liverpool, there was a substantial waste of money going on at the same time and I don’t want that to be the case with us.
On a personal level, I feel that there have already been some jury-is-out players purchased by the manager. The signings of Grant Hanley, Daryl Murphy and the aforementioned Sels, have to be met with raised eyebrows, as they’ve all been sold (or are being sold on) with very little game time or impact in a black and white shirt.
Moving away from the signings Rafa felt like he had to make, such as the above three and Joselu, the likes of Jacob Murphy have, from my point of view, been a little disappointing. The impression I’ve always had is that he is one for the future, but should be making more noise than he currently does. Here’s hoping he just needed a season under his belt to get going.
I’m not trying to put any kind of dampener on the Rafa parade. I would love nothing more than to see Ashley open up his wallet, give him some backing and trust him to take Newcastle where Rafa Benitez believes they can be.
I’m just a little concerned that, for every Pepe Reina, we’ll also have an Andrea Dossena; for every Javier Mascherano, we’ll have a Jermaine Pennant, and for every Dirk Kuyt, we’ll have a Josemi.
So, maybe a war chest of hundreds of millions might not be the best way forward.
Perhaps a more modest transfer budget would be better for Newcastle in the long run. That way, Rafa will be a little more shrewd in the transfer market and then, there’s less possibility that we will end up with a squad of Gabriel Palettas. Whoever the hell he is (ED: A then 20 year old centre-back signed by Rafa for £2m in 2006 from Argentine club Banfield).