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Opinion: Why Are Newcastle United Struggling To Get Deals Done This Summer?

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Rafa Benitez

The Struggle To Sign Players – Why Are Newcastle Finding It Difficult To Conclude Deals

It has been a story of hits and misses for Newcastle United so far, this summer. The transfer market was always going to be a huge one for the Magpies, after they achieved their promotion back to the Premier League.  

Manager Rafael Benitez may have had one of the best squads in the EFL Championship last season, on the back of which they went on to win the title. However, it was a general consensus around the club that the squad needed a major restructuring ahead of their big return back to the top-flight, with at least 8-10 players expected to come through at the St. James’ Park.  

If reports were to be believed, Rafa was already working on his list of players to bring in ahead of the coming season. And Newcastle’s owner, Mike Ashley, promised that Benítez would be given “every last penny” of available funds to strengthen the squad around the same time.  

The manager did caution near the end of the last season that it was not “always possible” to “do business early” – but a coach anxious to bring in a high-calibre alternative in almost every position in the starting XI would not definitely would have hoped to get most business done by the pre-season in order to help the new faces get used to the team.

Yet, Newcastle had completed just one signing, by recruiting Christian Atsu back from Chelsea by the time the pre-season started. The activity did speed up a little, with Florian Lejeune coming in from Eibar, followed by Javier Manquillo from Atletico Madrid, Jacob Murphy from Norwich City and Mikel Merino from Borussia Dortmund on loan.

Florian Lejeune

While that does represent some very decent business, it hasn’t been the most ideal one. Newcastle have been unable to seal the deals for a number of their prime targets this summer and have had to turn their attention towards alternatives due to that inability to close a deal.

First it was Tammy Abraham, who they had entered negotiations with very early, but ended up losing him to Swansea. Joe Hart and Willy Caballero‘s pursuit also ended in a similar fashion as well. Something similar happened in their chase of Benfica midfielder Andreas Samaris too. The 28-year old was a prime target, but with Benfica demanding £18million, they instead went in and brought a much cheaper alternative in Merino.

The transfer of Lejeune too dragged on for way too long than it should have, creating doubts if it would even get completed, but eventually, it did. But a striker and a goalkeeper are yet to arrive at the St. James’ Park. 

It is no secret that owner Mike Ashley is very much obsessed with getting value for money, but in his pursuit of that, the bigger picture tends to get overlooked on occasions. He wants to bring in players under the age of 26, who will offer the club a good resale value in the future. While that is a good policy, no doubt, sometimes the club has to go all out and bring in what they need, especially when it is a summer that could go on to define your season. 

Rafael Benitez and Gouffran of Newcastle

There was money to burn, with cash from the Premier League television deal to come, the £30million received from the sale of Moussa Sissoko to Tottenham Hotspur last summer unspent. Yet, the total outlay of their summer, till date, might be something similar to the money obtained from Sissoko’s sale. With so much at stake, coming into the new season, returning to the Premier League, the manager needs to be backed in the transfer market, it is as simple as that. 

Another reason, for the club’s slow operation in the transfer window could be the inability to get rid of the dead weight in the squad. The likes of Emmanuel Riviere, Siem de Jong, who are on bumper contracts, are mostly unwanted, but the club hasn’t been able to get them off the books in the summer. The likes of Tim Krul, Grant Hanley, Achraf Lazaar, Massadio Haidara to name a few, who take up a good chunk of the wage budget, are all deemed surplus to requirements, but still remain at the club.

With a 30-strong squad, most of whom are on standard Premier League wages, it is no doubt that the club will be held back from taking the plunge into the market unless some outward business to free up the wage budget is done.  

With the season opener against Tottenham Hotspur fast approaching, and the deadline day not very far away either, Newcastle need to sort out their transfer plans and fast. The competition in the Premier League keeps getting tougher and tougher with each passing year and Newcastle cannot afford another slip-up like the 2015/16 season.