Recruitment policies of Steve Bruce and Rafa Benitez – Reveals this superiority
Oh no! Not another article comparing Steve Bruce and the mighty Rafa Benitez.
Well, yes it is another article highlighting the failures of Steve Bruce’s Yes-man tenure.
It has become pertinent that some of us fans need to do our utmost best to keep everyone of sound mind, free from temptation of being satisfied with failure, which has been Mike Ashley’s weapon on his journey to destroy our club.
This explains why Rafa Benitez was praised and seen as a success for his mid-table accomplishments, while Bruce will not be praised for stagnating the team with his own mid-table accomplishments.
Today, we draw our comparison by examining both managers’ recruitment policies, a key role of any football manager. Of course, this means I will delve into figures, highlighting the income, expenditure and net spend of the three Rafalution seasons and two Brucieball seasons (Some releases, free transfers and transfers of players who made negligible contributions to the team are omitted).
Names in bold: formed/still form the core of our team.
Names in italic: decent signings who did okay
Names in bracket: (debatable)
2016/17 – Rafa Benitez
£57m spent, £87m gained (Net: +£30m)
Gayle, Ritchie, Hayden, Clark, Yedlin, Mo Diame, Daryl Murphy
Sissoko, Tiote, Janmaat, Wijnaldum, Townsend, Cabella, Coloccini, S. Taylor
(Bigirimana, Obertan, Marveaux)
2017/18 – Rafa Benitez
£44.9m spent, £21m gained (Net: -£23.9m)
J. Murphy, Manquillo, Lejeune, Merino
Loanees: Kenedy, Dubravka, Merino, Slimani
2018/19 – Rafa Benitez
£43.5m spent, £44.2m gained (Net: +£0.7m)
Almiron, Schär, F. Fernandez, Dubravka, Ki
Merino, Mitrovic, Mbemba
Loanees: Kenedy, Rondon, Barreca
2019/20 – Steve Bruce
£65m spent, £31.7m (Joselu and Perez sold in between Rafa going and Bruce arriving) gained (Net: -£33.3m)
Ayoze Perez, Ki
Loanees: Willems, Lazaro (Bentaleb, Rose)
2020/21 – Steve Bruce
£35m spent, £0m gained (Net: -£35m)
(Barlaser, Sterry, V. Fernandez)
Positives and Negatives for Rafa Benitez
These facts reveal three strong positives about Rafa Benitez.
Firstly, he made shrewd signings. Albeit he never got to spend up to £50m in a season, he bought players who have been dependable and formed the core of our team, 10 of those players are still in/out of the first team (4 from the very first year!), with 1 on loan and 4 sold.
Next, he only took players on loan with the intention of signing them permanently. Atsu, Dubrávka, Merino were all tied down, while Ashley frustrated deals for Kenedy, Rondon and Slimani (Kenedy re-signed for a second loan spell).
Lastly, he made the task of reshaping a failed Premier League League team into a Championship winning side look rather easy.
Although the individual quality of the players we had lost was unquestionable, it was clear that they lacked team chemistry. Rafa built a team that had exactly that. No doubt there were failed transfers like Matz Sels and Gamez, but the impact was hardly noticeable.
Nonetheless, no individual is without their errors.
Many fans may point to the recent successes of Toney, Mbabu and Armstrong and lay the blame at Benitez’s feet for letting them go. To be honest, Rafa needed a team that would win immediately and it was only right for the players who showed promise that they were released. It’s one of the traits of good man managers that they may place the good of a promising player’s career above the team’s needs (Arsene Wenger with Hayden, Gnabry, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Guardiola with Iheanacho, Sancho, Garcia, Brahim).
The Merino sale was the biggest pain of Rafa’s tenure and it likely happened for the same reason, seeing as Rafa is close family friends with Merino. The lad chose to use his release clause and leave for more playing time. That transfer will still hurt me for years to come. I also believed Mitrovic should have stayed but he needed playing time as well and the manager didn’t fancy him so it is what it is.
Positives and Negatives for Steve Bruce
There are two positives for Steve Bruce.
The first is the signings of Saint-Maximin. Newcastle has lacked a true flair player since Hatem Ben Arfa departed and as such the excitement that comes with watching them. Although ASM has fewer goal involvements than one would expect, his positive influence on the team as a whole is unmistakable and he allows his teammates definitely benefit from defenders paying them less attention.
The second is the signing of Callum Wilson, who is the suitable replacement for Rondon (and guess what? He didn’t cost £40m). His goals and presence have been a boost to the entire team as well. Few things can encourage a team as well as knowing there’s a man up top who can do the business.
On the negative side, the signing of ASM is reminiscent of the signing of Thauvin, who only came here to use the club as a stepping stone to find a better club, and ASM may be on his way out this summer. The same can be said for the loan signings which have been made with no thought for the future or team building; 4 of 4 so far have returned to their teams (apologies to those of you still hoping Willock will sign).
The next negative is the return to the quantity-over-quality recruitment which Rafa Benitez was strongly opposed to. So far, with a net loss of £68m and multiple free transfers, only four players have paid dividends: Willock, Wilson, ASM and, to a lesser extent, Willems. Joelinton, Fraser, Lewis, Carroll, Krafth, Hendrick have all flopped. Bentaleb, Rose and Lazaro were all questionable last year.
Lastly, and my biggest worry, is the decisions being made on outgoing transfers. We again cashed-in on our top scorer Ayoze Perez in 2019 and it will be interesting to see what happens when a deal comes for Wilson, who is nearing 30 now. Lejeune was loaned out only for us to end up playing Shelvey as CB, Yedlin was given away only for Murphy to end up at RB. The promising Dan Barlaser and Jamie Sterry were let go and the future will tell if this was a good move. The departures of Yedlin and Sterry have been concealed by makeshift wing-back Murphy, but it’s anyone’s guess how long he wishes to continue in that role.
Rafa Benitez was a manager working with a clear long-term plan, slowly modifying parts of his team to attain the levels he desired.
He built this team from scratch on limited funding, despite the income he made on winning the Championship, and finishing 10th and 13th.
These stats clearly show that Rafa Benitez ran this team with a clear vision and deserves all the praise he gets.
Steve Bruce, on the other hand, took over a stable team and has quickly began to disrupt the balance of the team. He has been wasteful in recruitment and has reverted to the transfer strategy of quantity over quality.
Next season will be make or break for Brucie. Fans finally back in the stands and the bigger clubs will be able to spend more like they did before the pandemic.
At the end of that season, those of you who are still undecided will then judge the success of Brucieball.
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