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Mike Ashley age restrictions on Rafa Benitez buying players exposed as a myth

3 months ago
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I keep reading about Mike Ashley and his age rules on buying players.

All of the newspapers currently trotting out this line that for Rafa Benitez to be convinced to stay…’Mike Ashley must abandon his rigid transfer policy of not allowing any signings over the age of 26.’

This line lazily repeated without really considering the actual truth.

Yes there are issues when it comes to Mike Ashley and the age of signings but it is a lot more complicated than the line the media are taking.

Quite amazing how the newspapers can simply ignore/forget about the players bought last summer (2018):

Fabian Schar (now aged 27)

Martin Dubravka (now 30)

Ki Sung-yeung (now 30)

Yoshinori Muto (will turn 27 in July)

Federico Fernandez (now 30)

Rafa Benitez made five permanent signings, with Mike Ashley knowing that three of them would turn 30 during the season just ended, with the other two set to turn 27 within a year of signing.

There isn’t a rigid age policy for Rafa Benitez under Mike Ashley.

Where the problem does come, is that with each case being on its own individual merits, the answer can still be no, even though the money is available and buying this particular player is one that Rafa Benitez sees as key to his plans.

Which of course brings us to Salomon Rondon.

Of the three summer 2018 signings who have now turned 30, Fernandez and Ki now have only a year left on their contracts. The South Korean midfielder brought in on a free, whilst Mike Ashley agreed to the £6m (relatively) short-term purchase of Fernandez after accepting that losing Florian Lejeune in pre-season to a big injury was a huge blow.

The value of that decision massively vindicated with Fernandez being Newcastle’s best player in 2018, though he then was completely sidelined once Lejeune got back to full fitness. A win-win really, Rafa shown to be right in feeling the need to recruit the defender from Swansea, then the French defender making Fernandez redundant once fit. Even Mike Ashley having to accept that you need some kind of squad, not just 11 first teamers.

Martin Dubravka got a four year contract despite his age but that was a no-brainer, with keepers having a longer shelf life.

Buying Salomon Rondon was of course blocked by Mike Ashley, as it surely will be again this summer.

It would be a massive shift for the NUFC owner to accept this one, even though it should be an easy decision.

It is Rondon’s last big move/contract of his career and little wonder that it is being widely reported that the striker wants a four year contract.

The £16.5m release clause is the same as last summer but Salomon Rondon now said to be looking for £100,000 a week wages.

So as Mike Ashley sees it, this is a £36.5m deal (£16.5m transfer fee and four seasons of wages at £5m a year). The likes of Lee Charnley and Ashley friendly media have often trotted out this line but it is nonsense really, as they never then subtract what an outgoing player would be then saving them on wages. So for example, if Newcastle have say Rondon instead of Gayle who is sold, then his £60,000 a week (£3m a year) wages don’t have to be paid, Mike Ashley should be looking at it as a £24.5m deal (Rondon’s transfer fee and wages, less Gayle’s wages that no longer have to be paid). Or in this particular case, Gayle should easily command a transfer fee of £15m if he was sold and Rondon signed in his place, so you could even pitch it as Rondon costing only £9.5m (£36.5m Rondon transfer fee and wages, less Gayle transfer fee and signed wages) if signed on a four year contract.

The problem comes of course, that Mike Ashley wants to have his cake AND eat it.

As we saw last summer, despite selling Mitrovic for £22m (potentially rising to £27m) and saving on Mitro’s wages, Rafa Benitez still wasn’t allowed to buy Salomon Rondon.

What we are talking about really are the big decisions, the big players that Rafa Benitez wants to have the freedom to bring in, regardless of age or price, within any agreed realistic transfer budget.

That is the big problem as I see it, not some mythical rigid all player age policy that has been imposed on Rafa Benitez in recent years.

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