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Opinion

Getting to 30 January 2019 without a single signing is not Mike Ashley fully backing Rafa Benitez

2 years ago
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Mike Ashley is finally allowing some players to arrive in the 2019 January transfer window.

The Newcastle United owner sanctioning the recruitment of Miguel Almiron.

The Paraguayan playmaker/number 10 has now arrived on Tyneside with a transfer fee of around £20m set to be paid.

Two loan signings also appear to be happening.

Left-back/wing-back Antonio Barreca is also reported to be now in Newcastle, set to have a medical and sign a loan deal with an option to buy at the end of the season for around £8m.

Barreca making only three league starts for Torino last season and then only seven this season for relegation threatened Monaco.

The other loan deal is widely reported to be Andreas Samaris.

Set to turn 30 and be out of contract in the summer, the Benfica midfielder and Greek international had only started 13 league games these past two seasons and then one this campaign. However, he did start last night and played the full 90 minutes for Benfica in a 5-1 win over Boavista, in what appears to have been a team selection to help convince Newcastle he is a player who is fully fit despite the scarcity of football.

Samaris is said to be available to anybody on loan for the rest of the season who will pay the Portuguese club £500,000.

The above is all setting the scene.

As of now, 31 hours before Thursday’s 11pm January transfer deadline, nobody has yet signed for Newcastle United this month.

This is not Mike Ashley ‘fully backing’ Rafa Benitez.

Am I happy about this trio of apparently imminent signings?

If these three are the reality of who Newcastle sign this month then it would definitely be a relief, but as for happy, well it depends on where your starting point is.

When I was heading over for the Man City game after 5pm yesterday, then yes, at that point I was very happy to then find out Miguel Almiron was actually on his way, as well as the earlier claims reports of the two loan players (Samaris and Barreca) coming.

I think Miguel Almiron looks to have loads of potential and the big question is whether he can transfer what he has shown in the MLS to the Premier League.

Nothing to suggest Barreca will be a world beater but when your only current left-back (Dummett) can’t cross the halfway line and has been injured since 2 January, then a good chance he can at least do a job until the end of the season. Then again, hopefully show he is least raising the bar above Manquillo and others as a squad player long-term at a minimum.

Samaris I see as simply a short-term option to help get us through this season, Shelvey hasn’t been able to start a game for three months, Ki Sung-yeung is also out injured, whilst Hayden is still desperate to get away. Claims that if these signings happen, Hayden will be allowed to go to Villa on loan and Murphy the same to West Brom.

The bigger picture though of course has to be seen.

Rafa Benitez given no backing in the summer and instead Mike Ashley insisting on a £20m+ profit on transfer deals, on top of three previously disappointing/disastrous transfer windows.

Meaning that the manager repeatedly said for five months or more, he would wait and see what happened in January 2019 before making any decision on his future.

When your team/club if deep in a relegation struggle, there is a massive difference in having players set to come in at the very start, compared to last ditch deals done in the final hours of the month…

Last night, Newcastle could still have dropped into the bottom three with 14 games to go, if it hadn’t been for the out of the blue win over Man City and Cardiff losing 2-1 at Arsenal, it would have been far less of a surprise if the Welsh side had won at the Emirates, than NUFC beating Pep Guardiola’s team.

If any/all of these transfers go through by tomorrow night, then the very earliest any of them will have a chance of getting a start will surely be Huddersfield at home on 23 February, with only 12 games left of the season.

With Rafa famed for wanting to work and work with players on the training pitch before putting them in the team, Spurs on Saturday would naturally be too quick, as I believe would be Wolves away on Monday 11 February, as that would only allow one week’s  training for new arrivals and of course to settle in generally. The weekend of Saturday 16 February is free because Newcastle have opted out of the FA Cup again.

That game against Wolves on 11 February will be the ninth NUFC game since the January window opened, matches where both new signings could have had an influence on the Premier League matches and table, as well as getting time on the pitch with their new teammates in the FA Cup games, plus potentially helping Newcastle stay in that cup competition…

Lack of spending transfer window after transfer window and breaking a 14 year old cub transfer fee, are bound to make the Miguel Almiron transfer feel far far bigger for Newcastle than the likes of Bournemouth and others who are used to that kind of heady spending…

Of course it is a positive if after 12 years Mike Ashley has accepted a transfer fee over £15m is needed for at least one of your team – but is this anywhere near enough to convince Rafa Benitez his future should be at Newcastle?

It is only due to the manager holding his nerve (without any new signings…) and continuing the exemplary form against other struggling teams, then pulling that Man City result out of the bag, that has kept Newcastle from being in the bottom three with away games at Spurs and Wolves up next.

I can only assume that like the rest of us, Rafa Benitez sees this late transfer movement as only a small step towards any credible transfer policy moving forward.

At least that first small step has been made but an awful lot more needed, for Rafa, the fans, the team/squad, as well as of course the club overall.

I still feel the only possible way Newcastle United can truly have a chance of moving forward once again, is if Mike Ashley leaves.

Here’s hoping, I would take that departure over any signing Newcastle could ever make.
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