It was a strange final two seasons for Aleksandar Mitrovic at Newcastle United.
Whilst it was a nightmare for the club when Newcastle were relegated in his first year after signing from Anderlecht for £14m, for Mitro it wasn’t that bad a contribution.
From 22 Premier League starts (plus 12 from the bench), nine league goals for a 20 year old making such a massive step up, wasn’t a bad return – especially in a struggling and eventually relegated team.
However, the writing was quickly on the wall once Rafa Benitez arrived.
The new Newcastle manager started Aleksandar Mitrovic in his first two games but then left him out, starting him only once more in the seven games that decided the eventual relegation.
Limited to only 11 starts (four goals) in the promotion season and then not a single one when returning to the Premier League, it couldn’t go on.
After a successful loan spell at Fulham, a permanent deal was sealed this summer.
Mitrovic has now explained the process as to why it didn’t work out.
The bottom line being that with his 14 stone physique, Mitro found it impossible to fit into what Rafa Benitez wants/needs from his main striker.
Defending and then quickly counter-attacking wasn’t playing to the Serbian striker’s strengths and whilst he has made a great start at Fulham, there is no doubt for me that this wouldn’t have happened at Newcastle, even if Rafa had retained and played him.
Mitro doesn’t bear grudges and says Rafa ‘is a great person’, just a conflict of styles.
The main problem for the Newcastle manager and the fans of course, isn’t so much that Mitrovic has left, more the fact that selling him for £22m (which could rise to £27m) led to only a fraction of that sale price being made available. A £2m loan deal, including Gayle the other way, for Salomon Rondon being his replacement.
Aleksandar Mitrovic talking to The Mail:
“I grew up on Alan Shearer and Didier Drogba but now the game has turned round.
“Teams want fast players. That’s not me. But I know my strengths.
“Rafa Benitez plays defence and counter-attack.
“I tried to give my best but it wasn’t me.
“I was just running and getting in the team shape.
“He told me what he wanted and I tried but I am 90 kilos and if I run so much defensively I have no power left when I am in the box.
“He knew I couldn’t play in that style and I felt it too.
“Defensively he was one of the best and you can see that when they play, but personally, I like to be close to the opponents’ box.
“I need crosses and service.
“I try to pay (Fulham manager) Slavisa (Jokanovic) back because he did everything to bring me here.
“Sometimes I will score, and sometimes I won’t, but I give 100% for him.
“Rafa Benitez is a great person and in the end (when I left) I shook his hand.”