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2 year milestone of Mike Ashley’s Joelinton plan and this is the mess Newcastle end up in

2 weeks ago
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I don’t blame Joelinton. He is what he is.

A very average player who generally tries his best but just isn’t good enough for the Premier League.

Pretty depressing stuff really, when your football club paid £40m+ for the Brazilian in July 2019 and yet now apparently in July 2021, the cupboard is totally bare. Not even any small change available to buy players that Newcastle United now desperately need.

Tomorrow (23 July 2021) will mark exactly two years since Mike Ashley proudly unveiled Joelinton to us all.

If there was ever a day that marked the epicentre of Ashley’s latest attempt to totally destroy Newcastle United, that was it.

As has so often happened despite his corrosive running of NUFC, after Mike Ashley had taken it to its knees once again, unbelievable luck fell the club owner’s way. March 2016 saw Rafa Benitez incredibly offer his services to a club and owner on their way to the Championship, again.

Just over three years later, Rafa Benitez had got Newcastle United promoted as champions, steadied the club as a Premier League mid-table outfit and had actually began to show clear signs of building it to something even better – Rafa’s final 28 Premier League clubs showed NUFC with the eighth best form in the division, then after finally allowed since promotion to buy a player for more than £10m the Spaniard utilised Almiron’s pace to help Newcastle end that 2018/19 season with the fifth best form in the final 16 PL matches and also the fifth highest number of goals scored in those last 16 games. All of this whilst at the same time making a PROFIT for Mike Ashley on transfers in and out of the club!

It all sounds like a bit of a dream scenario…the only problem being that Mike Ashley doesn’t want to hand any control / authority to anybody else.

Rafa Benitez ended that 2018/19 season with just over a month left on his contract, having presented a plan to Mike Ashley for how he could progress Newcastle United with a long-term plan. A plan that encompassed investment in the infrastructure, the Academy and first team training complex, as well as realistic but significant net spending on the first team squad. Rafa Benitez seeing a key part of this as having a big ambitious one-off transfer window with big (by Ashley standards) spending to get the ball rolling, with the idea being that only very limited spending would happen in the next few windows to offset that initial big spend. The bigger initial investment would allow better quality signings to be made, a plan that Rafa used at Napoli to great effect and set the club up for years on the transfer / squad front, even after he left.

Mike Ashley wasn’t sold on Rafa’s plans, he had his own, as we were very soon to find out.

Just over a week before Rafa Benitez was due to see his contract end on 30 June 2019, Mike Ashley put out a statement – without informing the manager beforehand, saying that Rafa wouldn’t be staying at NUFC after this current contract ended. Ashley treating Benitez with the total lack of respect that had been a constant through his three year contract.

So what would be the Mike Ashley alternative plan?

On the 17 July 2021, Mike Ashley secured Steve Bruce, after paying Sheffield Wednesday £3m compensation. Ashley replacing Benitez with a Championship level manager who most Newcastle fans had always dreaded would one day get the job, indeed somebody who a large number of supporters actively despise.

Just to make sure we knew just how much of a stooge / patsy Steve Bruce would be, he then made him have the title of Head Coach and not Manager, as had been the case with McClaren etc (though not Rafa of course).

Then just to make absolutely sure that we knew Bruce had zero say on anything, six days after the Head Coach was appointed, Mike Ashley decided Newcastle United would spend £40m (Ashley says it was £43m) on Joelinton.

After forcing Rafa Benitez out, Mike Ashley had also then sold Newcastle’s top scorer (12 PL goals) in 2018/19, Ayoze Perez, to Leicester for £30m and also sent player of the year Salomon Rondon (11 goals and 7 assists in 2018/19 PL season).

Those masterstrokes followed by replacing that 23 goal partnership (14 goals between them in the final 13 PL games of 2018/19 suggesting an ever better and developing partnership, after Almiron was introduced) with Joelinton and Andy Carroll, who between them would manage seven goals across the 76 Premier League games of the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons.

If you had any doubt about Joelinton being at the epicentre of the Mike Ashley plan, the owner made it absolutely clear himself only three days after announcing the Brazilian’s arrival.

In what at the time (26 July 2019) was a completely embarrassing hatchet job on Rafa Benitez, Mike Ashley put out a PR statement via his mate Martin Samuel at The Mail (see below), attempting to ridicule the Spaniard, declaring that ‘Joelinton was the test’, in terms of how differently Rafa Benitez and Mike Ashley saw the future progress of Newcastle United.

If Ashley’s hatchet job looked embarrassing then, it is difficult to quantify just how much worse that looks now, with these last two years of evidence to go on.

Rafa Benitez had got Newcastle United back from the Championship and into a decent position to move forward on, with a net spend of less than zero. He wanted a £100m transfer window to help move Newcastle United onto a whole new level and on their way to competing again. It is worth noting that in the first 13 months of Steve Bruce’s reign, Mike Ashley then allowed a net spend of over £100m.

As for poor Joelinton, he turns 25 in August and is not some young player who will suddenly turn out a big success, as an odd minority of Newcastle fans keep claiming, based on random stats, such as keeping possession in the middle third (non-threatening) part of the pitch.

This to a backdrop of Steve Bruce finally admitting that Joelinton wasn’t a natural goalscorer and indeed is a striker who doesn’t even really like getting into the box.

Moving right up to date and we are now nine weeks past last season ending and only three weeks to go until the new one kicks off. Not a single new signing and the only plan these past recent months, to simply give the current players new contracts / extensions to keep them at the club. This to a backdrop of the harsh reality that so many of them aren’t really good enough and Newcastle United are massively overly reliant on ASM for creativity / spark and Callum Wilson for goals. No effort made whatsoever to buy Joe Willock who added that vital extra dimension late last season, another goalscorer in the team.

Indeed, no effort to buy anybody…

We are told Mike Ashley doesn’t want to spend anything this window, having dreamt of the takeover suddenly happening so he could do a runner.

This morning’s news that Steve Bruce and Lee Charnley are having to beg Ashley to even be allowed to spend £4m on a fringe player (Mario Lemina) at Southampton to then become our first choice midfielder.

Meanwhile, Rafa Benitez is starting a new project over at Everton, leaving Newcastle fans thinking what might have been if he’d been backed in any kind of realistic way at St James Park.

Mike Ashley PR statement in The Mail with the help of Martin Samuel – 26 July 2019:

Mike Ashley insisted on Friday night that it was ‘impossible’ for Newcastle to have kept Rafa Benitez – and that the former manager was determined to take a lucrative deal to China from the start.

Ashley revealed he even floated the idea of an eight-year contract with Benitez at a meeting on May 16, and that the manager’s refusal to commit could have cost the club record signing Joelinton.

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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