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Opinion

Time to judge the opening 12 Rafa Benitez Newcastle signings in his first transfer window

12 months ago
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Rafa Benitez made a dozen Newcastle signings in his first transfer window at St James Park.

Brought in far too late when it came to being given a realistic chance of guiding NUFC to Premier League safety, the Spaniard’s first 10 games in charge ended with demotion to the Championship.

A number of ‘star’ players had already made clear they were not going to stick around if they helped the team go down, sure enough the likes of Sissoko, Wijnaldum, Townsend and Janmaat, were desperate to find new clubs.

In addition, there were countless other players, both in and out of contract, who had to be ditched, as they weren’t fit for purpose.

The net result being, Rafa Benitez had to do a crazy amount of work in his very first window, as much of a squad rebuild as possible.

Altogether 12 Newcastle signings came into the club in summer 2016 and I’d like to take you through them.

Successes or failures? Here are those 12 signings in the order they arrived, along with marks out of 10 as to how successful they proved for Newcastle:

Matz Sels:

Rafa surprised everybody when making a new number one his first priority.

Sels was a £5m buy and he did relatively ok at first, although never looking comfortable on balls into the box.

Dropped after nine Championship starts and has never had a league start since for NUFC. Looks set to leave this summer with Newcastle losing cash on the deal.

Verdict: 3 out of 10 – Never looked good enough.

Dwight Gayle:

Superb in the Championship, 23 goals despite only starting 26 games.

Only six Premier League goals last season as both he and the team found it tougher.

Verdict: 8 out of 10 overall – Could go higher if he manages to up his game in Premier League.

Matt Ritchie:

A little bit like Gayle but has finished the season well.

Cost £12m and got goals and assists for fun in the second tier but as per the number nine, more difficult in the PL.

Verdict: 8.5 out of 10 – Along with Gayle and one or two others, were the main men in promotion team.

Jesus Gamez:

Difficult to know what to make of him, had injuries but even when fit has only made three league starts in two years and is now leaving.

Verdict: 2 out of 10 – He might have cost nothing but can only be seen as proving to be a very poor signing.

Isaac Hayden:

Did well in the Championship and as a young player there were hopes he could continue his progress.

Made 15 PL starts but rarely looked up to the standard needed.

Verdict:  7 out of 10 – Still only 23 he could maybe improve but at very least Newcastle should get their £4m back if he was sold.

Grant Hanley:

Looked an ideal signing, £5m invested on a young but very experienced battle hardened Championship defender.

Ended up starting only five Championship games and looked very slow.

Maybe his real worth was being a back up in case Lascelles was out long-term, so may have improved if given more games.

Verdict: 4 out of 10 – Newcastle lost a few quid on him and contributed little in his time at SJP.

Ciaran Clark:

Excellent in the Championship, possibly Newcastle’s player of the season.

Has done ok on return to Premier League and key squad player, even if currently kept out by Lejeune.

Verdict: 8 out of 10 – Great value for £5m and committed to the club.

Mohamed Diame:

The surprise of both seasons really.

Poor to average in the Championship, especially with so much expected of someone who had played most of his career in the Premier League.

Then from December onwards he has surprised us again, probably the best NUFC player in final five months.

Verdict: 5 for last season and 9 for last five months or so, meaning 7 overall – If continuing his form next season he’d be deserving of a higher rating.

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DeAndre Yedlin:

Still a rough diamond but has given the team an extra dimension in both divisions, his pace allowing him to get up and down the pitch.

Looks a Premier League player.

Verdict: 8.5 out of 10 – At £5m has proved a brilliant buy and if he could improve his defending further, would be worth 9 out of 10 or better.

Daryl Murphy:

Did exactly as it said on the tin.

An experienced striker brought in on short-term two year deal as cover, scored five Championship goals despite only seven starts.

Verdict: 7 out of 10 – Scored valuable goals and played well every time, fancy he would have scored 20 or more if he’d needed to play most of the season.

Achraf Lazaar:

Difficult to see any positives in this one.

Signed for £3m and yet Rafa never thought him good enough to give a single league start, even in the second tier.

Went on loan to worst team in Serie A this past season and only managed a handful of games before being totally dropped from the squad n January.

Verdict: 1 out of 10 – Has been zero use and it will take a miracle for somebody to take him off our hands, unless the player takes massive wage drop.

Christian Atsu:

A year loan with a £6m option to buy, I think a marginal success.

Started 15 games in the Championship and 19 in Premier League, often looks like he is going to do something but rarely produces.

Verdict: 6.5 out of 10 – A squad player at best next season and Rafa would probably get his money back if selling.
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