Joelinton: Can Newcastle's latest Bundesliga experiment replace Rondon?
Background Image: Ben Sutherland, CC-BY-2.0
For the second successive summer, Newcastle United turned to the Bundesliga to solve their scoring puzzle. This time, the situation is more complex. The club's record was smashed on little-known Joelinton to replace the Chinese Super League-bound, Salomon Rondon.
Indeed, Joelinton's arrival temporarily doused the tension in the North East. The Magpies endured a problematic summer following emotive departures of Rafa Benitez and Rondon. Steve Bruce and Joelinton are tasked with filling for the pair reunited at Dalian Yifang in the Far East.
Benitez's desperation for a striker reached extreme levels last summer. Dissatisfied with Ayoze Perez, Dwight Gayle and Joselu’s combined 18 efforts, the Spaniard sojourned to the Rhine River in Germany. The river, ancient half-timbered houses and medieval market squares around weren't the attraction. It was Japanese striker Yoshinori Muto.
Newcastle struck 39 Premier League goals in 2017/18, the second-fewest of the top 14. Despite failing to reach double figures, the £9.5m buy was saddled with the responsibility of bettering the Magpies fortune in the final third. Muto, however, fell short, finding the net just once in 18 appearances.
A bulk of the scoring burden fell on Rondon. The Venezuelan joined on loan from West Brom in a deal that allowed Gayle to move to the Midlands. It was a transfer which at first appeared flawed. Although a goal poacher of repute, he seemed to be on a steady decline, banking on Newcastle to revive his career.
Rondon fired 11 goals and chipped in seven assists. He was the specimen Benitez craved, blessed with work ethic, energy and enthusiasm. Although he appeared lethargic at times, the big man showed up at the right moments to settle matches. His ability to bring his team-mates into play and hold-up the ball was invaluable.
Having failed to secure the ex-Malaga forward's signature permanently, Newcastle returned to Germany. This time to a village in Sinsheim, this time without Benitez. Brazil poacher Joelinton was snapped from Hoffeinham for a record £40m.
The forward arrives in the North-East, via South-West Germany, from the North-East of Brazil. Having started out with Sport Recife in his home state of Pernambuco, Joelinton made his professional debut in 2014. He scored two goals in the Brazilian top-flight that same year, following up with five more the year afterwards. That was enough to attract the attention of Hoffenheim who decided to bring him to the Bundesliga for a reported fee of around €2.2m.
Joelinton then spent two seasons on loan in Austria with Rapid Vienna and was recalled to the Hoffenheim first team before the 2018/19 season. Following a campaign in the Bundesliga, with seven goals and five assists in 28 appearances, he now heads for the Premier League.
At 6’1, Joelinton is the same height as Rondon with a similar build and South American heritage. Though he notched four fewer league goals than Rondon last season, Joelinton is seven years his junior and has plenty of time to hone his finishing and develop his game.
Joelinton's and Rondon's similarities go beyond physique, aerial threat and ability to hold up the ball. They both excel at involving their teammates in the attack, with Rondon racking up seven assists last season and Joelinton two behind him on five. The 22-year-old is versatile, adept anywhere in the final third with quick feet.
Joelinton is still unproven, and not the finished product at all. It might take time for him to adapt to the rigours of the Premier League. Whether he will fit into Steve Bruce’s style of play is another major concern. Expect the Magpies to return to Germany for the third time if he doesn't...