Ever since they were relegated from the Premier League Newcastle have had to fend off rumours, and sometimes bids, concerning their biggest stars. The talent pool at St James’ Park is large and the predators are circling.
When the club first went down the speculation was all about manager Rafael Benitez and his commitment to the club. His primary concern was the playing staff and his ability to build a team he thought capable of returning to the Premier League. He was obviously given the assurances he required as he has since affirmed his commitment to the club. The fans may be worried that Mike Ashley might not keep his word though.
Already Andros Townsend has left for pastures new and signed for former Toon boss Alan Pardew’s improving side at Crystal Palace. Papiss Cisse has also departed the club, swapping the North East for the Far East and joining up with Felix Magath’s Shandong Luneng. The next big fish to leave the decreasing pond is Moussa Sissoko, with Arsenal amongst the clubs apparently lining up a potential transfer. The club have slapped a ridiculous £35million price tag on their asset, no doubt to put off any clubs that might fancy a punt on him, and you would usually think of would be that. Given the inflated nature of the transfer market at the moment though, they might get their price. Even though his suitors would not have to pay the “English Tax” as he is French, even though his club are in the Championship and thus their value has decreased anyway, and even though he was frankly an integral part of a team that proved they were not good enough to play at the top level. Still you have to think that Newcastle will want to get all they can for one of their remaining stars and who can blame them.
The question now is are the players Rafa Benitez is bringing in good enough to get them back up at the first time of asking? As well as the sales of Cisse, Townsend and (probably) Sissoko, he has let club captain Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor leave so there is a big gap in the centre of the park. He has signed a defender in 31-year-old Jesus Gamez but he is definitely more of a full-back than a battling centre-half. New goalkeeper Mats Sels will undoubtedly be called on early as the injuries to Rob Eliot and Tim Krul have them both side-lined for a while yet. He looks a quality signing and, at 24 years of age, he looks like more than just a sticking plaster to cover a temporary wound. Having won Belgium’s Jupiler Pro League in 2015 and playing in the Champions’ League last season, Sels brings some much-needed pedigree to the locker room.
Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle both carry on this process of signing established players with a view to more than just this season. The both look like players who can do a job for Benitez and the Toon faithful but are both young enough to progress and improve, should Newcastle bounce straight back up to the top division.
The signs look pretty good given the quality of the players brought in. You would have to think they club will give it all they have to get back up in one go but remember, this is Newcastle we’re talking about. Why do things the easy way?