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Opinion

Joelinton holds the answers now we have heard from Mike Ashley, Rafa Benitez and Lee Charnley

4 days ago
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Joelinton has found himself unwittingly as the key figure in the battle for hearts and minds at Newcastle United.

Or put simply maybe, the battle for the truth at St James Park.

Mike Ashley, Rafa Benitez and ‘Lee Charnley’ have all had their say…but just who can you believe?

Mike Ashley was so excited by the prospect of signing Joelinton, he says he was willing to donate £23m of his own personal cash to get Rafa Benitez to accept the deal in February. A little bit of a surprise considering the owner had lifted £33m out of the NUFC cashflow only a few months earlier against the ‘debt’ he had against his own club.

As for Lee Charnley, on Sunday, in ‘his’ programme notes he stated that the signing was all agreed in February but Rafa Benitez refused to agree to it, meaning they had to wait until after they had forced Rafa out of the club at the end of June before signing the Brazilian.

As for Rafa Benitez, he was straight to the point: ‘Charnley’s comments in the programme about having a deal agreed for Joelinton in February explains a lot that I couldn’t understand at that time. After three years of unfulfilled promises, I didn’t trust them.’

Mike Ashley valued Joelinton at £43m, Rafa Benitez (according to Ashley) valued the Brazilian at £20m.

Lee Charnley refers to ‘outstanding scouting reports’ but who exactly is it that makes Mike Ashley so convinced that Joelintn was the must have at any price centre-forward, whose judgement would he rely on for such a massive outlay, bearing in mind that £40m+ is heading towards the total net spend Ashley had allowed on players in his first 12 years at the club?

We all hope Joelinton becomes a superstar and plays his entire career at St James Park but what evidence was there to make him be a ‘must have’ signing and Rafa Benitez such a fool when he wouldn’t agree to the deal. The way Ashley has went on, he makes it sound like the now ex-manager was disinterested in signing Lionel Messi at his very best.

Hoffenheim bought Joelinton for £1.5m from domestic football in Brazil in 2015.

In the 2015/16 season, Joelinton made one Bundesliga appearance off the bench in the final seconds of a defeat to Schalke.

In 2016/17 he went on loan to Rapid Vienna, playing centre-forward and score eight goals in 33 league appearances.

Another season on loan at Rapid Vienna in 2017/18, this time scoring seven goals in 27 league appearances playing through the middle.

In 2018/19 Joelinton got his chance with Hoffenheim but playing on the right of an attacking three.

With both Lee Charnley and Mike Ashley saying a deal was agreed in February, fair to assume that it was scouting reports before 26 January 2019 that had decided the Brazilian was the one. Up to 26 January, Joelinton had scored four Bundesliga goals last season, he added another on 26 Jan and then two more, making it seven for the season.

Even if you throw in other aspects of his game that might have been shown (a bit like a Salomon Rondon who got 11 goals and seven assists (Joelinton for five assists in the league last season) for Newcastle last season in the Premier League…), how do you get anywhere near a valuation of £40m, or £43m, as Mike Ashley tells it?

It is all very strange…

As for Rafa Benitez, Mike Ashley pretending he wanted to keep the manager is laughable.

The club stated themselves that there was £61m maximum to spend this summer, plus sales, so Rafa was going to have £40m of that £61m already spent on a player that wasn’t his choice??? Plus, as we all know, Ashley and his people have been keen in the past to want to include wage costs as being part of any transfer funds available.

As it happens, the net spend this summer was less than £30m.

I haven’t seen any reports even claiming there was a host of other clubs desperate to pay £40m+ for Joelinton at this stage of his career.

The truth is out there somewhere but between Rafa Benitez and Mike Ashley & his people at least we know who to believe.

Rafa Benitez speaking to The Athletic – 13 August 2019:

“Newcastle’s board had a year to sort out my contract but, when we met after the end of last season, they didn’t make me a proper offer. They told me they didn’t want to invest in the academy or the training ground — if they like, I can explain the reason why Mike Ashley refused to do that.

“Their idea of a project was a policy of signing players under 24 and, in my opinion, the budget available was not enough to compete for the top 10.

“After that meeting, I knew they would not come back with a serious offer and, when it arrived, 19 days later, it was for the same salary as three years earlier and with less control over signings.

“Charnley’s comments in the programme about having a deal agreed for Joelinton in February explains a lot that I couldn’t understand at that time.

“After three years of unfulfilled promises, I didn’t trust them.”

The now infamous ‘Lee Charnley’ programme notes – 11 August 2019:

“We were delighted to secure a number of targets that we have had on our radar for a period of time.

“We had several outstanding scouting reports about Joelinton and he is a player who we strived for.

“We worked so hard to get a deal agreed for him earlier this year (as far back as February) to take effect from 1 July.

“Everything was in place, with all contracts and paperwork agreed, and it was very disappointing and surprising that we could not conclude it at that time.

“We felt it was a transfer that was in the best interests of the football club.

“However, we needed Rafa’s approval to proceed and, despite our best efforts, this is something he would not give.

“Following Steve Bruce’s arrival, we discussed Joelinton and our scouting reports at length.

“With Steve completely on board, we were delighted to secure him. He and Hoffenheim were very patient and we are grateful to them for that.”

“Steve’s views were very much in line with our own in terms of what the team needed to improve.”

Mike Ashley PR piece on The Mail – 26 July 2019:

Ashley claims the club suspected there would be problems with the Benitez negotiation when he declined to sign off on the £40m deal for new striker Joelinton in February. As manager, Benitez had the final say on all transfers, but would not give the go-ahead on Joelinton even though Newcastle had the fee and personal terms agreed, and the player had passed a medical.

Ashley revealed: ‘We delivered Rafa’s number one target in January, Miguel Almiron, but Hoffenheim wouldn’t sell Joelinton. Then in February they said we could get him early, but it would cost £40m. He was a name we had discussed with Rafa, and our recruitment people had him top of their list. I thought it was one of those that would keep drifting away, but no, we had it done.

‘I was so excited to tell Rafa we’ve got another one coming, but when Lee Charnley, our managing director, had the conversation, his view was that he didn’t want to commit to the transfer until he knew what his position was with the club next season. And I didn’t get that. Is this the bloke who had given it to me for the last 12 months?

‘Proper given me bucketfuls – which I may or may not deserve, but I don’t deserve it on this one, because I’ve done it. I’ve got his first choice, Almiron, and this other player who was so exciting we thought he’d be out of our range. When we first sat down with Rafa, we didn’t think we would pay this much for a player. We’d never done that before.

‘From there, the relationship deteriorated very quickly. I was personally very disappointed, and that’s putting it politely. I was freaked out. I’m thinking, “I clearly don’t understand anything about football” because I’m all for celebrating and going mad and suddenly it’s, “No – you’ve got to sort my deal out first.” So we had another few weeks of correspondence and then it wasn’t just his deal, it was that he thought the £40m for Joelinton wasn’t worth it. It’s too much and the club shouldn’t spend it.

‘And very occasionally, I get to be me in this world. So here’s the deal. I’ll pay £20m of it personally. Nothing to do with the club. Above and beyond the budget. Rafa valued him at £20m. So that’s what would come out of the club budget. The rest, £23m – I’ll pay. And he still didn’t sign it off. Looking back, I think he knew for a long time he was going to China because it was like we couldn’t do anything. Joelinton was the test.

‘Why on earth would you not want that? As a football manager, with all the things you have said, why wouldn’t you want Joelinton? It wasn’t even as if it was him or Salomon Rondon. And we told him that. We just wanted Joelinton secured.’

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