Newcastle did well to scrape a top half finish last season despite operating on limited resources compared to many of their Premiership rivals. Rafa Benitez deserves enormous credit for leading a rag-tag group mainly made up of Championship players and loanees to a comfortable position in the world’s most competitive league. But the bookmakers believe he will struggle to repeat the feat next time around and that could be a reflection of the uncertainty surrounding the club’s future.
Mike Ashley remains at the helm after Amanda Staveley’s takeover bid failed, and he is unlikely to put up a significant transfer war chest. Many claim that Ashley overvalues the Magpies at £400 million. It certainly caused Staveley and her backers to walk away, and the club is likely to continue drifting along under an owner that wants to get rid of it. The bookmakers have seized on this uncertainty when offering a market on who will finish in the top half of the table next season. Newcastle are 5/2 outsiders to pull it off and only six teams – Cardiff, Huddersfield, Watford, Fulham, Brighton and Burnley – are given less of a chance. That leaves Newcastle below the likes of Bournemouth, West Ham, Crystal Palace, Southampton and Wolves in the bookies’ estimations.
But can they defy the odds once more? If you think they can pull it off, check out a well respected and trustworthy site like BetOnline and get involved in some ante-post action. With Benitez at the helm, anything is possible. The Magpies are blessed to have a Champions League winning former Real Madrid, Liverpool, Chelsea and Valencia manager in the dugout.
He joined too late in 2015/16 to stop them being relegated, stayed put and dragged them back up to the top flight and then consolidated their Premiership status last season. He achieved a 10th place finish despite a net spend of just £22 million, with Championship player Jacob Murphy his record signing at £10 million.
Contrast that with relegated Swansea, who spent more than £20 million on Andre Ayew alone. West Ham spent £50 million on Marko Arnautovic, Chicharito and Jordan Hugill and finished below the Magpies. It is little wonder that Benitez was in the mix for Manager of the Season. The eventual winner, Man City’s title-winning boss Pep Guardiola, said Benitez deserved it more than him.
Of course, there is no guarantee that he will stay put again for the 2018/19 campaign. His loyalty to the club is admirable, but Benitez will not be short of offers. Real Madrid have just named Spain boss Julen Lopetegui as their next manager. Benitez is said to be a serious candidate for the Spain job, should he want it.
In an ideal world, Ashley would try to convince him to stay by bankrolling a little splurge in the transfer market. We all know that Newcastle can attract quality players from overseas. They have been doing so for decades, from Faustino Asprilla to David Ginola to Giorginio Wijnaldum. Bringing in some talented imports and a couple of established Premiership players could make all the difference.
But this is far from an ideal world and Ashley – for all the work he has done in stabilising the club’s finances – is far from an ideal owner. Yet the old adage about speculating to accumulate could be apt here.
Newcastle are not really worth £400 million, but if they secured Europa League football they might well be, so a bit of summer investment and a decent league finish next season could make the club a far more attractive prospect to potential new owners.
A top striker, a midfield general, a commanding defender and a playmaker would be ideal and a splurge of, say £70 million, could be offset by selling Aleksandar Mitrovic for £20 million or so.