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Opinion

Proof that showing ambition in transfer market can save Newcastle United cash long-term

2 years ago
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Newcastle United have had a turbulent 11 years under Mike Ashley.

In that time, there have been two relegations and two promotions, as well as another couple of near relegation misses.

Much of this instability can be put down to the Ashley approach to the transfer market.

When I was setting up home with the wife, my grannie used to tell us (and tell us and tell us…) not to go for the cheap basic option, her mantra was always that if you buy quality it will save you long-term.

The reasoning being that if you buy cheap and cheerful it quickly lets you down and you end up having to replace it, often making the same mistake again and repeatedly kidding yourself you are saving money by buying rubbish.

Which brings me back to Newcastle United and Mike Ashley.

Last summer Rafa Benitez was starved of realistic transfer funds and had to largely shop in the bargain aisles.

The net result of this was that six signings were made but only Florian Lejeune ended the season in the team. In fact, all of Manquillo, Merino, Joselu, Murphy and Atsu, hardly got a kick in those final three or four months.

That isn’t to say that all of those five players are rubbish…but it does tell you that when you have to buy on such a limited budget, then the risks on transfers are so much higher.

It is laughable that some fans were calling into question Rafa’s judgement because our ‘big’ summer signing didn’t really cut it. This was £10m (bonus payments due if he hits targets) Jacob Murphy, the manager taking a punt on a young inexperienced player with potential who only had one season at Championship level behind him.

When the team struggled, especially when picking up only one point from nine games, supporters were questioning why Murphy wasn’t playing. This is at a time when Bournemouth had spent £20m on a young defender (Nathan Ake) and pretty much every other club was showing more ambition in the transfer market.

The thing is, players who have cost decent money aren’t really the ones who cost Newcastle United longer-term, it is more the bargain ones.

Even take for example the disastrous 2015/16 season.

The biggest spending year ever under Mike Ashley and it was relegation at the end of it. However, the actual signings weren’t necessarily bad players, more a case of a lack of previous investment in the squad catching up with the club and in some cases wrong player at wrong time. Add in a disastrous Steve McClaren amongst other negatives and it was a disaster waiting to happen.

There were six major signings that season and interesting to see what then happened to them…

Gini Wijnaldum cost around £14m and ended up being top scorer (from midfield) and sold for £25m.

Florian Thauvin was another who arrived for around £14m, His time at Newcastle was a shocker but surely if Rafa Benitez had been here then it would have been a different story. The fact Thauvin made France’s stellar World Cup squad, has scored and made goals for fun at Marseille, and is now valued at £50m+, tells us that he was more than worth what Newcastle paid. The fact he left for a few million less than what Newcastle paid, was simply down to incompetence surrounding his arrival and the decision-making.

As for Aleksandar Mitrovic, another brought in for roughly £14m and despite Rafa not fancying him, Mitro is going to land Newcastle a sizeable profit this summer, not lose the club money.

Even Chancel Mbemba, when he eventually leaves, Newcastle will get back most of the £8m they paid back in 2015.

The January 2016 window saw further investment as Ashley desperately tried to avoid relegation.

Andros Townsend in for £13m and he proved to be Newcastle’s best player in his short spell, before United got their money back that summer, with of course Townsend valued higher than that now.

Jonjo Shelvey also bought for around £13m that January, the midfielder clearly worth more than that now and most Newcastle fans many pundits thinking he should have gone to Russia this summer.

Ironically the worst signing of that season was Henri Saivet, ‘only’ £5m but a pointless signing, a player not good enough and ending up with just three league starts for Newcastle these past two and a half years and who we can’t now get rid of.

Going for ‘bargains’ has constantly cost Newcastle, refusing to pay the going rate for Lacazette back in 2014 and ended up with Riviere, £6m and one league goal later, he was given away in the end.

You have others such as Obertan, Haidara, Marveaux etc, low transfer fees but they end up sitting out five year contracts contributing nothing and leaving for nothing.

Rafa had no choice because of relegation but to go for lower quality, so it was always on the cards we would end up with a few that the club later struggle to shift, such as Sels and Lazaar. However, you have to balance that with his big money signings Gayle and Ritchie that season, who have proved great signings overall. Even the likes of Hanley and Daryl Murphy managed to trade on after serving their purpose as promotion squad players.

Whilst you will get the odd bargain such as £4m signing Dubravka, you can’t just then rely on loans (Kenedy) and free transfers (Ki Sung-yueng) to make up your squad.

At some time, Rafa Benitez has to be backed to make (relatively) big signings and as illustrated above, this doesn’t necessarily mean losing money long-term.

That time is now.
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