How will Newcastle United spend their summer?
The mood on Tyneside reached its boiling point at season's end. After Newcastle United decided Rafa Benitez would not return as Magpies boss in 2019/20, fans lost all remaining hope for their dysfunctional ownership. Mike Ashley’s legacy as Toon's ultimate nemesis is sealed.
The businessman’s schemes are being questioned by the real proprietors of the club, aka the fans. The inevitable delay in an apparent takeover from Dubai-based Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed is dwindling into another failed attempt to free the club from the 54-year-old. The nightmare continues.
The billionaire could try to extinguish the fire by offering the fans summer treats. The transfer window is in full flow but the lack of a manager or any interest in spending on serious talent sees Newcastle on the outside looking in.
First and foremost, the managerial void must be rectified. The Magpies are apparently rounding up multiple candidates to replace Benitez. Good luck finding another Champions and Europa League winner willing to come to the North East.
Manchester City assistant Mikel Arteta is one candidate. Belgium manager Roberto Martinez’s Premier League experience with Wigan and Everton makes him an influential figure. The atmosphere at St James' Park would be a true test of his eternal optimism. Sean Dyche is a candidate used to operating on a tight budget. The difference is when Burnley's board say they don't have the money, they're being honest.
Another popular manager won't be sufficient to calm supporters' frayed nerves. For Newcastle to compete for a top-half finish, more impactful players are needed. Too many frailties and injury problems held Benitez’s side back last season.
Unfortunately, Ashley's transfer policy is well-known. Ambitious players with a proven track record won't sign for the club. The Magpies are limited to promising youngsters looking to make a mark and cast-off veterans. While the hierarchy switched their emphasis to Spanish talent under Rafa, in spirit Newcastle remains the French Foreign Legion of Premier League clubs.
In the latter category, Salomon Rondon is apparently quite eager to come back to Tyneside for a permanent stay. That should come as encouraging news. He bullied opposing defences with gusto last season. One would presume he’d be retained but Ashley doesn’t see the necessity. The Venezuelan’s age is the excuse. The need to pay him wages more commensurate with his service might be the real reason.
Hoffenheim’s Brazilian, Joelinton is rumoured as Rondon's replacement. The 22-year-old was the blunt instrument that powered Julian Nagelsmann’s side in 2018/19. A complete forward with the tendency to create chances for team-mates and smack goals in for fun, he's suitable to follow in Rondon and Aleksandar Mitrovic's footsteps. The problem? The Bundesliga side expects to be paid for their bruising forward.
Aussie Aaron Mooy would like a new Premier League home with Huddersfield Town relegated. He’s an influential midfielder capable of reinvigorating the Toon engine room. Mohamed Diame hasn't signed for another club but announced he wouldn't return to St James' Park. Sean Longstaff and Jonjo Shelvey are targets for other Premier League clubs in this window. They aren't alone. Despite Rondon's contentment, Rafa's exit may spark a mass exodus.
Isaac Hayden reiterated his wishes to leave Tyneside after last season’s finale, citing personal reasons. His family lives in Wales and have no interest in picking up stakes.
While West Ham were rebuffed in their early advances for Shelvey who is professing his loyalty to the side in the hopes the new boss won't bench him as Benitez did, Manchester United persist in their pursuit of Longstaff. Keeping the 21-year-old from a dream move to Old Trafford is perhaps beyond Ashley’s reach.
Striker Ayoze Perez was sighted at the King Power Stadium in Leicester this week with his agent. That's usually a sign a transfer is nearing fruition. The Spaniard broke his personal barrier in netting in double figures last season but craves a new adventure after watching so many others come and go from Geordieland. Fans can only hope some of the proceeds from his possible sale are reinvested in the club.
Fabian Schar’s heroics are also attracting outside attention.
Then there are players the club hopes to move. The inefficient Christian Atsu turned in some abysmal performances in 2018/19. He tops the list.
When it comes down to it, Newcastle are the most dubious club to be featured in this series. We ask how each club will spend their summer, a play on words directed at the audacious amounts of money that change hands annually. There will be very little spending at St James' Park. The Magpies' cunning businessman intends to do as he has always done: calculate the lowest possible figure he can invest without sending the Toon Army into combat readiness.