When news came in over the summer that Salomon Rondon was going to be Aleksandar Mitrovic’s replacement following his £20m move to Fulham, I can see why some fans were sceptical.
Rondon had never managed to get into double figures in the Premier League, he’d just been relegated with West Brom (something which never helps fan’s perspective on a deal) and he was approaching 30. A few months on, however, and the big Venezuelan is proving EXACTLY why Rafa Benitez was adamant that Rondon was the right man for the job in this Newcastle side.
He took time to get fully fit – with some fans calling him ‘another Slimani’ just a few months ago – however his ability to fit into our hard working, disciplined and counter-attacking side is far superior to that of Mitrovic’s. He’s more mobile than the Serbian, allowing him to not only press with more intensity, but to make runs in the channels and keep up with pace paced attacking – just like he did at Huddersfield on Saturday.
Mitrovic’s early season form made many believe we’d sold a real goalscorer and signed an unfit, rusty striker in Rondon, but we’re now seeing just what he is capable of – with his ability to bring others into play, his selfless work off the ball, his physical presence AND his ability to score goals when given the right service making him a real asset to this team in more ways than one.
As stated earlier in the piece, Rondon’s goal record over his last three seasons at West Brom could’ve been seen as a real concern given the signing of a proven goalscorer seemed essential. He managed an average of 8 Premier League striker per season during his time with the Baggies, yet in nine league starts this season and one cup cameo he has 5 goals and 2 assists already. With four goals in his last six, those who bet on Newcastle United will no doubt fancy a punt on him to bag again this weekend against an incredibly leaky Fulham defence.
The only frustration now is that we’ve only got him on loan – with the fact we refused to pay his £16m release clause made all the more frustrating given we received significantly more when cashing in on Mitrovic.
The difference in what Mitrovic and Rondon can offer may be clear on Saturday. Both will score goal with good service in the box, both are real handfuls and immovable objects when they receive the right ball with their back to goal, however Rondon’s superior work rate and mobility is something to watch out for. In a Rafa Benitez side that requires optimum levels of energy, discipline and desire, Rondon fits the bill – and it’s also worth mentioning that he’s already scored as many league goals as Mitrovic managed in our promotion season in the Championship two years ago!
It’s probably time to forget about Mitrovic. He’s no longer our player and he’s now at a club whose style of play suits him far better than ours ever would under Benitez, however it feels like all this had to be said – especially when so many slated Rafa’s decision to sell the Serbian and then replace him with a striker so many saw as a significant downgrade.
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