The international break has seen Salomon Rondon and Dwight Gayle come under the spotlight.
With column inches to fill, the media in the North East and West Midlands have been talking a lot about what will happen at the end of the loan deals.
This is despite some six months remaining and the two strikers only having made 17 league starts between them so far.
Injury and fitness issues affecting both players, Gayle starting 12 of West Brom’s 17 Championship games, whilst Rondon has started only 5 of Newcastle’s 12 Premier League matches.
Saturday was a perfect coming together of the two stories ahead of this two week gap without games, Salomon Rondon producing a two goal man of the match performance, whilst returning from injury, Dwight Gayle came off the bench to score his 9th goal with a classy backheel.
The apparently overwhelming reaction from the two sets of fans 200 miles apart, being that they would be more than happy for loan arrangements to become permanent.
There is one massive obstacle though.
Look back at what happened this summer, the loan deals went through the day after West Brom kicked off their league season, whilst for Newcastle it was only half a dozen days before they did the same in the Premier League.
Despite it being obvious that a quick deal was massively beneficial to both clubs, instead we had a complete mess, with neither striker getting any pre-season with their new club, preventing them hitting the ground running.
It all came down to Mike Ashley wanting to wring every last penny of benefit out of the swap deal, this being despite making a £20m+ profit on deals in and out, including selling a striker for £22m (rising to £27m).
Initially, a permanent deal was said to be in the offing. Rafa Benitez wanting Salomon Rondon to lead a new look attack, whilst West Brom saw Dwight Gayle as the ideal striker to fire them out of the Championship and also fit a new look attack for them hopefully going into the Premier League, with more emphasis on pace, rather than a target man like Rondon.
Days and then weeks went by without any deal, Mike Ashley unwilling to accept that Salomon Rondon’s overall profile meant his valuation was significantly higher than Dwight Gayle’s.
The upshot of it was, Mike Ashley refusing to bend and buy the player, despite having promised ‘every penny’ to Rafa Benitez and also having refused to properly fund improvement elsewhere in the Newcastle team.
With the NUFC owner refusing to budge on a permanent deal, focus then switched to saving the arrangement by changing to loan deals.
Once again though things dragged on and on, Mike Ashley refusing to even acknowledge that there should be a balancing loan payment going to West Brom.
With time running out and only a few days until the transfer deadline, Ashley eventually agreed to a £2m payment going to the Baggies as part of the loan swap.
When you think of what is at stake this season and the overall finances involved, it is staggering that Mike Ashley put the manager and team/squad in this position, rather than at least doing the bare minimum to help Rafa Benitez be prepared for this season.
So looking ahead to the end of the season, the massive obstacle(s) will still be there.
In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me that if say Rondon scores 10 goals and Gayle 20 or more this season, that Mike Ashley would insist that it is Dwight Gayle who is worth more than the Venezuelan international.
The facts are, Rondon turns 30 in September 2019 and Gayle turns 29 in October 2019.
Neither player has proved prolific in the Premier League and indeed if Salomon Rondon did get 10 goals or more this season, it would be the first time either had got double figures in the English top tier.
However, Rondon has scored goals at international level, 25 goals in 57 starts for Malaga in La Liga, as well as 33 goals in 54 starts (plus sub appearances) in Russia for Rubin Kazan and Zenit, as well as commanding £15m and £16m transfer fees.
Bottom line is that any permanent swap deal next summer would have to include a significant payment to West Brom to balance the two signings. Something which I see as impossible when it comes to Mike Ashley’s mindset of always wanting to believe he has got the far better part of a deal, rather than accepting that at times a win win arrangement is needed.
In terms of money, you would also need the NUFC owner to accept the need to pay higher wages to Rondon than those that Gayle was getting, to at least match the deal the Venezuelan had at West Brom. This only adds another level to what I believe would make the obstacles far too high to allow Ashley to agree to a permanent swap deal.
Mike Ashley would simply see agreeing to all of this as ‘losing’, yet again failing to see the bigger picture whereby sometimes spending money can save you far more in the longer-term.