The curious case of Rafa Benitez and the 6 Transfer Windows
After any of the transfer windows, the question has to be, are Newcastle United stronger now?
Then if the answer is yes, the next question is, has the increase in quality/depth been enough?
The absolute necessity depends largely on where your starting point is.
If you are a team at the top then by definition you have got a lot of top players, so the number of players who could potentially strengthen your team/squad is a pretty small pool.
Much is made of Tottenham not being too active in the transfer market but with finishes of third, second and third, currently third, you are hard pressed to find many obvious signings who would improve them. Especially when the clubs they are now competing with have greater financial muscle, when targeting the more obvious elite signings.
With Newcastle United it is a different story, as a recently promoted club it is obvious that you need to be raising the quality with the understanding it may take a number of windows to do so.
Rafa Benitez has now had six transfer windows in total at Newcastle United.
After relegation it was a case in summer 2016 of having to build a team to get out of the Championship, the manager left with little choice anyway as a lot of the better quality players demanded to leave, as well as there being others who had outstayed their welcome.
Rafa did really well in his recruitment and as well as building a Championship winning team, he added players such as Ritchie and Gayle from the top tier.
However, you would have to accept that the quality of the squad dropped overall, with players such as Wijnaldum, Townsend, Sissoko and Thauvin leaving,
Rafa wasn’t allowed to bring in any players so by virtue of nothing happening in the middle of a promotion push, it would be a case of as you were at best, though probably a negative with the likelihood of preparing for a step up to the Premier League in a matter of months.
The key window surely, as you aim to stabilise after winning a hard fought promotion.
Murphy, Manquillo, Joselu, Lejeune, Atsu and Merino were all signed.
Whilst there were no key departures, you look at that list of players and only Lejeune is a big player for Newcastle only 18 months later. Merino has gone, budget signings Joselu, Manquillo and Atsu have contributed little to nothing, whilst on a limited budget the £10m risked on Murphy’s potential hasn’t worked out.
A transfer window that was a real disaster really, Rafa scratching around for bargains to fill shirts, rather than players who could be key foundation stones for years to come.
Only loan signings allowed.
Dubravka and Kenedy proved quick short-term fixes, Slimani less so. However, with no buys, this was another case of simply trying to get by. Not a window that was building longer-term.
Austerity measures really kicked in further, Mike Ashley insisting on a £20m+ profit on deals. A crazy policy that had stupidity written all over it.
A combination of bargain buys, frees and loans, false economy for sure.
However, against the odds Rafa Benitez did turn it into an almost positive window. Excellent business bringing in Dubravka, Schar and Fernandez at the back for a combined £13m.
However, there is little chance of cheating the system further up the pitch. Whilst Rondon has impressed, he isn’t secured long-term, nor is Kenedy who hasn’t impressed this time. Ki is a cheap short-term fix, whilst Muto may have been the most expensive summer 2018 signing, under £10m for a striker means you need to be very lucky to find a goalscorer for that these days. One goal later…
With limited funds Rafa was able to strengthen his defensive options but there was a desperate need for belated realistic investment up front for the short and long-term but it wasn’t to be.
At last, Miguel Almiron is a credible signing and has the potential to be a key player year after year. If say even Rondon had been made permanent, then you could maybe have started to look at building blocks being put in place beyond the immediate future. However, instead Almiron stands alone.
Newcastle are stronger now than before this January 2019 window but more was needed, for the squad now and going forward, plus in potentially convincing Rafa Benitez that things are now moving forward.
The reality is that Newcastle are still, four transfer windows later, massively reliant on the players who played in the Championship season. Against Manchester United a month ago, eight of the starting eleven were from that second tier season.
Miguel Almiron has meant this latest window has been a slender win in terms of improving the team/squad. Summer 2019 has to be a heavy victory, Rafa persuaded to stay and able to add at least two or three new players as a minimum, who will be seen as likely big players in the team for years to come.
Rafa Benitez has managed to force marginal gains out of the NUFC owner this time but far far more is needed by him, the fans, the squad and indeed the whole football club.
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