This was always going to be a massive summer for Newcastle United.
With a far lower transfer budget than expected last summer, Rafa Benitez made a number of stop-gap signings to try and ensure the squad had enough to survive.
The likes of Joselu, Atsu and Manquillo, budget signings to fill out the squad.
With Rafa Benitez then blocked from buying anybody in January, he brought in three loan signings as relegation threatened.
Whilst Slimani was injured pretty much the whole time, Kenedy and Dubravka were arguably THE key players who made the difference and helped guide United to safety.
It was noticeable though, that of Rafa’s half dozen 2017 summer signings, only Florian Lejeune really figured in those final vital months of the season. Joselu, Merino, Murphy, Manquillo and Atsu, hardly got a game between them after January.
With it being more squad/filler players brought in last season, rather than automatic first teamers, it then automatically puts extra pressure on this summer transfer window.
After Premier League safety was assured in early April, there then followed an ever increasing number of media reports claiming that this early survival success meant that Rafa Benitez and Newcastle United would be able to get transfer window preparations going, far earlier than had been anticipated.
A lot of talk that especially with the far earlier transfer window finish and complications added by it being a World Cup year, Newcastle would be looking to get much/most of their transfer business done before the tournament kicked off.
It hasn’t exactly worked out that way.
Martin Dubravka’s signing had to be completed by the end of May or else Newcastle would have lost the option to buy him for only £4m.
Apart from that, there appears to be absolutely nothing happening at all.
No progress on Rafa agreeing a new contract and not even any serious transfer speculation, not incoming anyway. In fact there has been more about the likes of Lascelles, Lejeune and Perez potentially leaving, although I give those zero credibility as well. Rafa can’t afford to sell anybody of any use as it stands currently.
The Chronicle recently said that they understood Mike Ashley was refusing to give Rafa Benitez a transfer budget until he signed a contract extension.
Who knows whether that is true but what I do know, is that at this moment in time Newcastle are weaker than in those final months of the season.
Kenedy has gone back to Chelsea without seemingly any move from Newcastle to try and buy him, whilst squad players Gamez and Haidara have been released.
The World Cup kicks off in only three days time and managers such as Didier Deschamps have already said that any player looking to make a club transfer, should do it before they left for Russia, with obviously the focus needing to be only on the tournament. No manager wants to have a player leaving the squad to go and do a medical etc, once it is close to all getting going in Russia.
I wasn’t expecting to sign anybody from the French squad surprisingly enough but during past tournaments, we have regularly been told that pretty much any transfer is more difficult to conclude, due to not only players being away on international duty, but also agents, managers, and club officials/hierarchy in general.
Newcastle players report back for pre-season three weeks today and the NUFC squad flies off for the pre-season training camp in Ireland before the World Cup final takes place.
The opening games of the World Cup kick off this Thursday and it coincides with the release of the 2018/19 Premier League fixtures.
At that point there will be 56 days until the PL summer transfer window closes.
If what The Chronicle report is true, then we could be looking at a disaster if there really is a stand-off between Ashley and Rafa, with the owner not currently allowing the manager to get on with is transfer business.
To be honest, Rafa has always been keen to get on with transfer activity in every other window, so difficult to understand why this one would have been a different story.
We all hope that there is frantic activity going on behind the scenes but the image I have in my head is of Lee Charnley currently sweeping up after the Ed Sheeran concerts at St James Park this weekend. Our fellow promoted clubs from last summer have already made five signings between them, with Huddersfield bringing in three and once again breaking their club record, when paying a reported £17.6m plus bonuses for Terence Kongolo on Friday.
As always, I hope I am wrong about Mike Ashley, but history tells me this is rarely the case.
(Important dates this summer):
Thursday 17 May 2018
Premier League summer transfer window opened.
Friday 1 June 2018
Summer transfer window opened in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain.
Saturday 9 June 2018
International transfers can be processed as from this date (though transfers between two English clubs can already be processed). So for example, Newcastle could have announced the permanent signing of Martin Dubravka any time beforehand, but the paperwork would then be processed on this day (or after).
Thursday 14 June 2018
Premier League fixtures released at 9am.
Thursday 14 June 2018
Opening matches of World Cup take place in Russia.
Monday 18 June 2018
England v Tunisia (7pm)
Sunday 24 June
England v Panama (1pm)
Thursday 28 June
England v Belgium (7pm)
Monday 2 July 2018
Newcastle players report back for pre-season training.
Tuesday 10 July 2018
Approx date for first lot of Premier League fixture dates/times for live TV games in August & September (it was 10 July 2017 last summer) to be announced.
Sunday 15 July 2018
World Cup final takes place.
Tuesday 17 July 2018
Friendly: St Patrick’s Athletic v Newcastle United – 7.45pm kick-off
Tuesday 24 July 2018
Friendly: Hull City v Newcastle United – 7.45pm kick-off
Saturday 28 July 2018
Friendly: Porto v Newcastle United – Kick-off time TBC
Wednesday 1 August
Friendly: Away from home but opposition still to be confirmed.
Saturday 4 August 2018
Friendly: Newcastle United v Augsburg – 3pm kick-off
Thursday 9 August 2018
Premier League summer transfer window closes at 5pm.
Saturday 11 August (weekend of) 2018
First set of Premier League matches kick-off.
Friday 31 August 2018
Summer transfer window closes in Germany, Spain, Italy, and France (so after 9 August, Premier League clubs can’t buy any players but those in other European countries, and elsewhere, could still buy Premier League players until their windows close).
Sunday 19 May 2019
Final Premier League matches (all 10 games kick-off at same time).