Ranking Rafa’s six summer signings – best to worst

Newcastle fans were left disappointed during the summer window, along with Rafa Benitez, as Mike Ashley left us woefully short for the upcoming season. Benitez has worked diligently this season to get us a few wins from safety; aided by some shrewd loans in the winter window.

Now the season is drawing to a conclusion, how have our summer recruits fared? Here’s how I’d rank the six Rafa signed over the summer:

1 – Mikel Merino – Loan, £7m purchase

Our most successful capture after arriving on loan from Dortmund. Merino was outstanding in the early part of the season, where we were as high as 7th in the table before falling to a more realistic position. The surprising form of Diame and loss of form following a problematic back injury has meant he has been dropped in recent months, but he is still young and full of promise. It will be interesting to see if that move to Bilbao materialises in the summer but either way, he is now worth far more than we paid but more importantly, has the potential to be a real star of the future for us.

2- Florian Lejeune (£9m)

Injuries halted his promising start on Tyneside, with a poor challenge from Harry Kane in the opening game of the season. However, now he is fully fit he has formed a strong partnership with club captain Jamaal Lascelles. The former Eibar man looks solid, good in the air and capable on the ball, so seems like he has the making of a very capable Premier League centre-back. £9m was one of our biggest buys this summer but in this market, he represents money well spent.



3- Christian Atsu (£6m)

Overall Atsu has done ok for us even if the concerns over his end product remain. He has arguably been better in the Premiership for us than the Championship and once it became clear Rafa couldn’t get the budget he wanted or needed, securing Atsu for around £6m made sense as another option out wide. He’s faded in recent months, but he was our brightest attacking outlet in the first few months of the season.

Kenedy has showed the difference a quality winger can make to our side and if Rafa is backed this summer, Atsu could increasingly become a squad player or impact sub.

4 – Jacob Murphy (£10m)

At just over £10m Murphy was actually our biggest outlay during the window. Being a young English talent off the back of the under 21 championships meant a premium and Murphy has been hit and miss. He has clear potential, shown by his nice solo goal at the Etihad and great assist at Stoke. He has a good attitude and ability but he needs to improve. At 22 he feels very raw still, which is why he has been in and out of the team. Not a flop by any means and may come good but you get the feeling next year is make or break for him at Newcastle.

5 – Joselu (£5m)

Eyebrows were rightly raised when he arrived at the club at a time when we needed a top striker. He was a low budget stop gap for Rafa, after the lack of support in the market became clear towards the end of the window. The Spaniard has a good attitude and runs himself into the ground, but 4 goals so far this season just isn’t enough – especially when he’s had the chances to score quite a few more. The debate will rage on whether Mitrovic should have been played instead of him and with the upturn in form of Gayle and Slimani to get fit, you feel Joselu will be pushed to the sidelines and perhaps sold in the summer.

6 – Javier Manquillo (£4.5m)

Very much like Joselu, Manquillo has a good attitude but has proven to be just not up to the level we need. The return of Dummett has improved us no end and if Rafa was backed in the summer you feel Manquillo wouldn’t have been singed in the first place. Him and Joselu will be hard to move on this summer, but if we stay up, everyone has contributed in some way. Hopefully Ashley will realise if you pay low fees, more often than not, you can only sign poor players.

How do you think the summer singings have done? How would you rank them?

(Fancy writing for us? Send any articles/ideas over to us at [email protected] & we’ll get back to you!)

About Simon Riddlesden

Lifelong Newcastle United fan and East Stand season ticket holder. Observations from a supporter who has followed NUFC during Champions League participation and through relegation, taking me from Milan to Scunthorpe.

38 thoughts on “Ranking Rafa’s six summer signings – best to worst

  1. These can be put into two categories; Young/inexperienced and for the present. Lejuane, Manquillo, Joselu and Atsu fit into the later and Murphy, Merino are for the future.

    I think Joselu and Manquillo would be first out of the door if the manager had any real money to invest with.

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  2. I have a theory about Manquillo and Joselu. They were at Liverpool and Madrid respectively. Rafa has connections at both and probably asked about their character and how they train and was probably told good things about both. For the price, I think he was then willing to take a risk, especially since other options were limited after Abrahms snubbed us.

    You know how character and training are so important to Rafa, so in desperation he picked up these 2. I think that he now realizes they are not PL starters although with so few options he has to stick with Joselu who I think is useful to close out a game but probably useless if we are chasing a game.

    We shall see in the next 8 games.

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  3. Italy are not pushovers so lets see what happens. Remember they were in Spain’s qualifying group and England were in Maltas.

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  4. And with Slimani obviously not match fit to play against Leicester we are proably going to see more of Joselu than we want to.

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  5. I am not sure if that England team would scare anybody except Malta. Could be wrong and there is only 45 mins to kickoff. Moving away from the Spurs, Liverpool, City blueprint so lets see how Gareth’s own coaching does instead of piggybacking on Poch, Klopp and Pep (which is a good idea by the way and probably his best chance of success).

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  6. Italy finished 2nd in their group to Spain (28 pts) with 23 points. This put them in a playoff against Sweden which finished 1-0. You can’t tell me that could not have happened to England if we were in their group. We had a cakewalk.

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  7. Watching England it is unbelievable how much we miss a player like Shelvey in midfield. We have no players who are capable of passing like him.

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  8. England may be winning but should have been three nowt down after 20 min,bloody Stones,England class my ass

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  9. I am happy that England are doing well but I just worry about the tabloid hype machine getting cranked up again. The final 2 warm ups are easy and the group is relatively easy so they will whip themselves into a frenzy.

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  10. Icedog: what are the rules for a quick free kick? I thought the Ref had to whistle. Quick thinking, but doesn’t the Ref normally bring out the spray in that position which is why the Italians switched off.

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  11. Slimani looking sluggish so sub at best for Huddersfield and then cannot play against Leicester.

    Then Mitro scores 2. I don’t really see this as a big problem as long as we stay up. Either his value goes up or Rafa is forced to rethink. Now, if we go down there will be hell on.

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  12. I have said many times that there has to be more to this Rafa/Mitro thing than he doesn’t fit the system.

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  13. Eric Sykes:
    Icedog: what are the rules for a quick free kick? I thought the Ref had to whistle. Quick thinking, but doesn’t the Ref normally bring out the spray in that position which is why the Italians switched off.

    New rule says it’s up to ref,some allow it others are hard fast on the rule,ref can allow it if the had advantage at the time of foul

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  14. Cheers Ice.

    I am not counting any chickens but I just looked at the weekends fixtures and a win for us really could be the pivotal point of the season. Our relegation rivals are mostly onto a hiding to nothing. Can you see any of them even getting a point out of the following?

    Palace v Liverpool
    Man U v Swansea
    Arsenall v Stoke
    West Brom v Burnley

    Then there is the relegation six-pointer of West Ham v Southampton. A draw would be ideal to keep the heat on both of them.

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  15. Thought England were poor for first half hour or so then picked up a bit. Like Ice I’m not convinced on Stones at all, totally overhyped and it will all get cranked up to stupid levels pre tournament .

    Simon, thanks for the thread. I’m most impressed by Dubravka who we MUST sign, Kennedy and Lejuene who is great with Lascelles. Merino, if he can sort that back out, will be a good signing. He’s definitely got it, we saw that early doors and would be disappointed if he does leave.
    Manquillo isn’t quite it , great attitude but not quite there, likewise Joselu who gives his all and has decent hold up , defensive play but just awful finishing skills.
    No clue why we loaned Slimani if not fit, waste of a loan fee at the moment, plus he’ll need several games to get match fit.
    Murphy will be very good given time and good coaching, he defo has it in the locker, Atsu I’m not so sure.
    Don’t think Mitro will play for us again tbh, Rafa simply doesn’t fancy him for his system and I’m not sure he thinks he’s a good trainer which he seems to set his stall by. He’s obviously going well at Fulham but it is a league down and you get away with a lot more at that level.
    Maybe he didn’t fit in with the team too, who knows what goes on behind closed doors.

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  16. Maybe he didn’t fit in with the team too, who knows what goes on behind closed doors.

    (Quote)thats true mate,look what happend with wearside jack until it got out,ive tried asking my mate but is saying nowt he seems a bit withdrawn over it

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  17. Eric
    Like you I can’t see Palace, Swansea, Stoke or WBA getting owt
    Re WH v Soton a draw would leave WH on 31 pts, whereas a Soton win would leave them on 31 so no real difference except that it held put WH down.
    If we win we are well clear.

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  18. icedog:
    Maybe he didn’t fit in with the team too, who knows what goes on behind closed doors.

    (Quote)thats true mate,look what happend with wearside jack until it got out,ive tried asking my mate but is saying nowt he seems a bit withdrawn over it

    Yeah, like Eric says, there is likely more to it. Then again Rafa did have him as sub which suggest no massive falling out ? Very odd, the whole thing.

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  19. DZ Football‏ @DZFootball_en

    Follow Follow @DZFootball_en

     More

    Islam Slimani played 25 minutes of football for Algeria. Showed no signs of injury but looked unfit at times. Lacked movement

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  20. Kim – no surprise there. We’ll be lucky to get 2-3 sub appearances out of him.

    The form of Mitro and Arma does make you think.

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  21. What a massive game it is on Saturday. A win and we stay up – simple. Stoke, Palace and Swansea all got really tough games so I see them dropping points. West Ham and Southampton playing each other so whatever happens there someone will drop points.

    Games could be have been better set up for us this weekend.

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  22. You have some weird situations going on as well. Of course, you have the dead man walking at WBA where the new Chairman says the finances are a mess which explains why Pards is still in a job but he must have lost the players – he always does.

    Then there is West Ham. They are at home after that near riot. They also have dour Dave who when he gets onto relation talk can be about as inspirational as Teresa May at her time of the month. Of course he took Sunderland down and was talking relegation after about 3 games.

    Then Southampton with Mark Hughes. Could he manage to have 2 teams relegated in the same season? They might be looking for a new manager bounce/safe pair of hands but did they not see what he was like at the end with Stoke? Throwing everybody but himself under the bus.

    And will the Swansea Manager’s luck hold? He wasn’t that great in the Championship and they have a pretty crap squad.

    Should be an interesting weekend.

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  23. Given that WBA are relegated. After this weekend, assuming we win, there will be 6 other teams all avoiding the two spots and all between 27 and 31 pts. Any of them could go down. My money would be on Stoke and WHU.

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  24. Yep, I agree Prem, WH look to be on a self destruct mode right now. Vital we win on Saturday but we’ll still need a second win and 2 draws imo . The pressure will ease considerably if we can end Saturday on 35 points I think.

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  25. I have a dream. West Bromwich Albion come to SJP on April 28th and Pardew will probably still be in charge. Their Chairman has said there is no money and they have a get out clause in the summer, so they are likely to wait to avoid large payoff.

    My dream is that we beat them to send them down and make us mathematically safe. But, just because we are NUFC and I am being vindictive the arrogant SOB and his Ugly sidekick could spoil the party.

    The reception this time around might be funny. I think he sat on the bench the whole time with Palace, right?

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  26. Oh. And Arrogant Alan is not looking so arrogant now. More like a beaten dog on the sideline and after the match. Perhaps he has realized that he is not very good after all. Any thoughts Troy Stavers?

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  27. I would like to see Merino tried as a number10 where I believe he prefers to play. Certainly he has a touch of class and will get better. Lejeune is a good CB and good on the ball. Murphy I prefer to Atsu who flatters but rarely delivers.

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  28. I am not sure I am getting Rafa’s logic about Diame which is that he bought him as a number 10 for the Championship so he played him as a number 10, regardless of form. He then goes on to say he would be more DM in the PL because he had usually played there. But didn’t Diame start in a more forward role earlier this season? We did have forward options in The Championship as well so Diame could have slogged it out with Hayden.

    I think Rafa is a great manager but I think he is sort of making excuses here having seen how well Diame is currently doing as a DM. That was sort of forced upon him as well as Hayden wasn’t doing well, Merino was injured, Colback and Saivet ostracized.

    I really think he is fitting his story to take some credit for something that was a bit of a forced beneficial accident. BUT IF IT WORKS, WHO CARES 🙂

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  29. If Stoke lose on Saturday that will leave them 6 games to get 11 points and that just gets them to 38 points. Ask ally they would need to win at least 3 from 6 and draw a couple. Not likely. That’s why I feel after this weekend there’ll only be one place up from grabs.

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  30. Stuart: I agree on Stoke. Have you seen their fixtures? The only good thing is they may take a couple of points from relegation rivals. Butland is their only hope.

    Arsenal away
    Spurs home
    West Ham away
    Burnley home
    Liverpool away
    Palace home
    Swans away

    Really tough for the 1st 5 and then Palace and Swans will be fighting for their lives.

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  31. Yes, Eric, it’s tough for them. They’ll be gone with 5 games to go.

    Southampton have a terrible run where 5 our of their last 7/8 are away. That’s tough for anyone. But West Ham in free fall or Huddersfield if we beat them on Saturday will be my favourites.

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  32. Stuart: West Ham have make or break home games against S’ton and Stoke. Given the toxic atmosphere there, are they really home games? Loser of this weekend’s game between Saints and West Ham would probably be favourites. That gives us the pleasure of either:

    Moyes relegating teams in successive seasons, or

    Hughes relegating 2 teams in 1 season (assuming Stoke are toast)

    I am NOT assuming we are safe I am just thinking of funny scenarios. Especially as they will be stuck on the Keys and Gray couch who were big cheerleaders for them getting the jobs in the first place along with other British retreads such as Big Fat Sam, Arrogant Alan and Mr. Roy.

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  33. Of the British retreads , how many will be there next year? Here I will name them:

    Big Fat Sam – no chance. They have looked as bad as under Koeman and have spent 250 million in the past 2 years.

    Arrogant Alan – no chance

    Hughes – probably whether they stay up or go down.

    Lambert – no. He has a record of keeping teams up by the skin of their teeth and being let go.

    Mr. Roy – even if they stay up I think they will move on. May be moved upstairs.

    Moyes – no chance

    The only reason there is even a question is because only 3 teams can go down and there other contenders such as us and Huddersfield.

    They have all done a pretty sh!t job. Yes, even Mr. Roy who had 30 games and had the best squad.

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