Islam Slimani was the striker brought in on January transfer deadline day to score the goals that would help Newcastle United stay in the Premier League.
Rafa kept Newcastle up but the loan striker only ended up playing 130 minutes for the club and scored zero goals.
However, despite that, I still think he is almost certainly a better forward than Newcastle could otherwise attract to St James Park this summer.
Yes, he obviously had fitness issues in the time he was at Newcastle but Rafa having to work to such a limited budget, with no buys allowed, ended up with an already injured Islam Slimani signed at the last minute on loan.
His career generally hasn’t seen major injury issues, in three years at Sporting Lisbon the striker made 107 appearances in total.
Bought as Leicester’s record in August 2016 for £28m, Slimani didn’t find injuries a big problem, it was more the presence of Jamie Vardy.
The England international at one point looking as though he would be leaving but staying with the Foxes and in brilliant form, with the two strikers seen as not compatible to be played together, Islam Slimani was left with no route into the team.
The Algerian international might have only started 15 Premier League matches for Leicester in the year and a half before coming to Newcastle, but he was named on the bench another 29 times in PL games.
Reality is that from mid-September 2016 when he made his first league appearance for Leicester and mid-January 2017 when te striker picked up a training injury ahead of that loan move to Tyneside, Slimani was very rarely missing through a knock/injury.
Despite only 15 PL starts at Leicester he still scored eight goals and he scored for fun at Sporting Lisbon, getting 27 in 33 league games in his final season at the Portuguese club.
At Newcastle, he did only play the 130 minutes but the feeble end to his loan spell has clouded many fans’ judgement.
Not saying he is a superstar BUT I do reckon he could/would be a great signing for us.
His debut for Newcastle was as a sub against Huddersfield and coming on with 15 minutes to go, it was looking like a goalless draw in what was billed as a must win game. Five minutes later the game was won, Slimani’s presence in the box unsettling the opposition defence, helping Kenedy to get the space and give Perez a simple finish for the winner.
The next game he couldn’t play against Leicester but coming on with 27 minutes to go against Arsenal, he was excellent, looking clearly better than anything Newcastle have had in the Premier League all season up front.
He caused the Gunners all sorts of problems and the winning margin could have been more, including Sliman setting Kenedy up with a chance that hit the woodwork. However, the winner was completely down to the loan striker in its creation, a brave powerful header put the ball across the edge of the box and via the faintest of touches from Perez, it ended up at Ritchie’s feet and he made no mistake.
Islam Slimani worked hard for the team and that win over the Gunners ensured safety. Next up was Everton away and that latest sub display earned the striker a start.
Nobody played well at Goodison Park, the team seemingly dropping their levels with safety now assured. However, Islam Slimani did relatively ok and should indeed have got his first goal at NUFC, Perez somehow failing to pick the striker out when an easy 10 yard ball would have left Slimani with an easy finish.
Next up after that 1-0 defeat to Everton was West Brom at home. Islam Slimani came on after 65 minutes with the Baggies one up and playing well in their late rush of form to the season, whilst Newcastle were once again flat.
His only real contribution was a petulant kick out at a West Brom defender that later got him a retrospective ban that ruled him out of the three final Newcastle games of the season.
However, the last reason why anybody should be put off Slimani though is his disciplinary record.
The Algerian striker is normally an easy going character and had never been sent off for club or country before.
Until he was booked for Newcastle against Arsenal, he had picked up only one other yellow card in league football since January 2016. His overall record showing he averages no more than three or four bookings per season in league football, whichever country he has played in.
Earlier this month Slimani turned 30 but think in today’s market, Newcastle getting him for maybe around the £15m mark could prove a bargain and a far better striker than Rafa could otherwise attract.
Even if Mike Ashley allows a half-decent fee to spend on a centre-forward, what can you get for £15m-£20m?
To get a striker who looks capable/likely to score a decent amount of goals, you have to take a chance somewhere.
Either an older striker such as Islam Slimani.
Or one who has had significant injury problems, such as Daniel Sturridge.
Alternatively, a younger player, almost certainly from a weaker overseas league or the Championship, where there is no guarantees they can step up.
Likewise relying on a loan striker, just because we hit so lucky with loan signings such as Dubravka and Kenedy, bringing in Tammy Abraham or similar on loan has its concerns as well.
We might not have seen a lot of Islam Slimani but I liked a lot of what I did see.
I would be more than happy/relieved if he proved to be one of Rafa’s signings this summer.