Back in January we were surprised to learn Mike Ashley had promised to back Rafa Benitez with a £20m striker.
The story appeared across much of the media at the same time, suggesting that Sky Sports and the newspapers etc had been fed the story by Ashley’s people.
Needless to say, Newcastle United/Mike Ashley didn’t spend £20m on a striker, in fact Ashley didn’t let Rafa spend a penny on buying one (or indeed anybody else in that window).
Instead, Rafa Benitez was left with the real dregs.
Newcastle couldn’t even get a deal done for Sturridge on loan and it ended up with the very bottom of the barrel scraped, as on deadline day Rafa was handed an injured Islam Slimani on loan.
Newcastle fans ending up watching a magnificent 130 minutes of the Algerian in between injuries and suspension.
So what about the £20m.
Well, it turned out that Nicolai Jorgensen of Feyenoord was allegedly the £20m striker Mike Ashley was willing to fund for Rafa Benitez and this succession of quotes from Pete Graves of Sky Sports summed up this £20m striker chase rollercoaster…but at least we could look forward to that £20m being spent this summer…
Pete Graves (21 January 2018):
“I’m hearing some very positive vibes (on January signings) yeah.
“But I’ve heard them before.
“I’ve said all along, they simply HAVE to give Rafa significant financial support.”
Pete Graves (22 January 2018 – Morning):
“All Newcastle fans want to know the identity of this striker target, but it’s a sensitive situation.
“Told the fee is £20m, but club determined to keep it quiet till it’s done, to avoid added competition. Meanwhile awaiting Kenedy announcement. Straight loan.”
Pete Graves (22 January 2018 – Evening):
“Kenedy signs for Newcastle on loan.
“Next on the list is a striker and a goalkeeper…. but hearing tonight it’s been a frustrating day on both fronts.
“Work to do.”
Moving forward to early July, just before season ticket renewal deadline, an exclusive from Sky Sports saying Mike Ashley has given the green light so Rafa Benitez can land £20m rated Alassane Plea from Nice.
That story is kept going for a number of days in the media, until after deadline for season ticket renewals, Alassane Plea signs for Borussia Monchengladbach for over £20m.
Media claims that Newcastle actually made a bigger bid than the German club but the striker wanted to sign for them.
So we still have that £20m to play with…
Hmmm, funny that now with just a shade over eight days to go until transfer deadline day, Rafa is £35m up on transfers so far this summer (£25.5m once Muto’s work permit comes through) yet we are still struggling to buy anybody, never mind a £20m+ striker.
Since promotion, these three transfer windows have seen Mike Ashley refuse to let anybody be bought for over £10m. Newcastle not even making an offer to buy Kenedy, despite his form at the end of last season.
So Mike Ashley, what next for this £20m that is still floating around unspent, which mythical striker are we going to (not!) spend it on next?