Fair to say most Newcastle supporters were a little nonplussed by the signing of Ki Sung-Yueng.
The midfielder has played in the Premier League for the past six seasons and I definitely don’t remember hearing any Newcastle fan ever say, I wish we had him in our team.
It doesn’t mean that he is a poor player, just all feeling a little bit like when Jack Colback was signed up on a free transfer in June 2014.
I don’t remember any/many people saying it was a rubbish signing but neither did anybody get excited about it.
We all understand that not every player signed is going to break the club’s transfer record and that any transfer window will have a mixture of signings, hopefully.
So if signing Ki Sung-Yueng with no transfer fee involved, then helps free up cash for big deals elsewhere in the squad, fair enough.
The thing is of course, at this moment in time we don’t know who, if any…, the other signings are going to be this summer, with the exception of Martin Dubravka naturally.
So what positives and negatives can we take from this free transfer signing?
Well, I would suggest that the biggest positive is Rafa Benitez.
The signing tells me that Rafa is still engaged, is getting on with trying to improve the squad whatever the circumstances are that he has to operate within, especially financially.
Whilst no transfer fee is involved, I think it also indicates that the manager hopefully is getting the freedom that he wanted, signing somebody who is 29 and is on Premier League wages, with no potential resale value.
As the United boss has said before, it isn’t necessarily all about what exactly the figure is of any transfer budget, it is just as important that Benitez is allowed to do what he thinks is best.
To get out of the Championship, Rafa was allowed to bring in a varied list of signings, including short-term ones like Gamez and Murphy.
However, last summer it was a different story, with the manager blocked from bringing in both older players on frees/low transfer fees but big wages, as well as more expensive loan deals.
I don’t think Ki Sung-Yueng’s wages will break the bank but hopefully his signing is a step in the right direction, in terms of Rafa Benitez having the flexibility to use whatever budget in the best possible way.
Maybe the best chance of getting the necessary quality on the left wing and up front will be via loan deals this summer.
If so, for example Kenedy will have a far higher loan fee price on his head this summer, as opposed to what Newcastle paid in January for a player who’d done next to nothing in almost three years in England. Now he is seen as a dangerous winger who would have a queue of clubs willing to take him.
The same for getting a high level striker, Mike Ashley allowed it once when it was desperation time in summer 2013, Loic Remy arriving on loan at massive wages for the season after Ashley had blocked the club buying any players whatsoever.
Not saying we should definitely go down this route and not claiming these are the players Newcastle should go for, but as an indication of prices that would need to be paid even for loans, Swansea committed to loan fees of £5m and £7m for Abraham and Sanches last summer, as well as what would have been serious wages.
After last summer’s transfer window, Rafa Benitez made the point that Newcastle couldn’t even compete with both Brighton and Huddersfield on transfer fees AND wages.
It remains to be seen just how big a problem transfer fees are going to be for Rafa this time but he certainly needs to then have the freedom on wages, if he is to get best value for the squad and fans.