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Opinion

Summer transfer window set to offer little help in assessing Rafa Benitez position at Newcastle

5 months ago
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So many things to think about, whether it is Mike Ashley, Rafa Benitez, or indeed the summer transfer window.

Until the takeover talk surfaced just over a week ago, what was going to happen with the manager and signings was the only big issue.

The two things seen as inextricably linked, if Rafa Benitez was indeed going to sign an extension then surely that pointed to an at least relatively ambitious summer transfer window.

The first sign we were looking for was an announcement that the manager had agreed a new deal, or potentially instead, a signing such as Salomon Rondon that would appear to confirm the two things (Rafa agreeing new contract and a decent transfer window ahead).

Instead, we are now sat here wondering what we will see first, with possibilities coming from all directions.

White smoke signalling we have a new owner, Rafa smiling shaking hands with the (hopefully) new owner, or indeed a major transfer announcing action this summer.

When it comes to this 2019 summer transfer window, what can we learn from Rafa’s previous three summer windows at Newcastle United?

These are the first three (or four) signings made in each of these past three summers:

SUMMER 2016

29 June Matz Sels (£5m)

1 July Dwight Gayle (£10m)

1 July Matt Ritchie (£12m)

SUMMER 2017

24 May Christian Atsu (£6m)

4 July Florian Lejeune (£9m)

19 July Jacob Murphy (£10m)

SUMMER 2018

30 May Martin Dubravka (£4m)

29 June Ki Sung-yeung (Free)

12 July Kenedy (Loan)

26 July Fabian Schar (£3m)

SUMMER 2019

???

Rafa Benitez is renowned for his attention to detail and intense preparations, the manager wanting to get new signings in as early as possible.

So the first thing that really jumps out at you, is just how few early signings Mike Ashley has allowed him to make.

In summer 2019 Rafa had to pretty much rebuild a whole team/squad, yet his first signing wasn’t made until Matz Sels on 29 June 2016.

When it gets to early preparations in the Premier League, things arguably get far worse because at least in that summer 2016 window a number of other signings quickly followed Sels.

If you take out Atsu and Dubravka, signings that had to be made by the end of May to get them at the prices agreed as part of their loan deals, Newcastle then signed only Florian Lejeune before 19 July 2017, then before 26 July last summer, only free transfer Ki and loan signing Kenedy arrived before Fabian Schar was bought in.

When you consider Ki had extended holiday after the World Cup and Kenedy had next to no pre-season due to a new baby and traveling back to Brazil to visit, it doesn’t exactly add up to getting everything in place early.

In fact, I was quite stunned when checking back as to how late most of the signings have been in past summers, as Mike Ashley shackled Rafa Benitez.

The manager has repeatedly made his ideas clear on the matter, stating time after time that having the freedom to go for targets early is a key thing he needs to be allowed to do.

We are now 20 days into the summer transfer window and unless we get a big surprise, it looks very likely we at least need to see a new contract for the manager AND potentially new owners in place as well, before anything of substance can happen with transfers.

If we had a sweep on when the first signing of summer 2019 will be, I wouldn’t fancy pulling a June date out of the hat…

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