Rafa Benitez’s exit has been hard to stomach over the past few days, but it’s fair to say the devastation will only continue this summer if a takeover fails to materialise in the coming weeks/days.
Newcastle United are still a big club, but there’s only so much that can be preached when our biggest asset (Rafa Benitez) and our big, boisterous crowds look set to disappear next season if something doesn’t change – and fast.
As a result, I can’t help but feel the following players will be definitely looking for a move away if a top manager (highly unlikely if Ashley remains) or new owners don’t arrive:
Last seasons top scorer will be hit hard by the departure of his fellow Spaniard and is one I expect to leave. He was linked with the likes of Valenica, Napoli and Atletico Madrid while Rafa was here, so a departure seems inevitable. He is also one of our biggest assets and could command a fee north of £20m, so expect Ashley to cash in yet again.
The Swiss international was a revelation for us last season; classy on the ball, solid defensively and chipped in with some crucial goals. The bargain £3m arrival from Deportivo has been linked with Arsenal and at 27, he may push for a big move.
The former Arsenal man was outstanding for us last season, making the midfield spot his own. He would again command a fee of close to £20m, which West Ham are keen on, and has reportedly been watched by Gareth Southgate and his England team. Hayden was set to leave this summer to move down south to be nearer family anyway, so expect this one to continue to play out this summer.
Our number 1 has been fantastic since arriving initially on loan, so much so, that last season he was already being linked to the likes of Juventus. The shot stopper has always claimed he is happy on Tyneside but was a big fan of Rafa after he gave him his Premier League chance from Sparta Prague. He was signed for just £4m, which always concerns me under Ashley, who will see it as a chance to make a big profit this summer.
The French centre back has been superb for us since Benitez pushed to sign him from Eibar two years ago. He has fought back from multiple serious knee injuries to be a rock in defence for us, as well as excellent on the ball. Centre back is on the areas we are well stocked in and at 28, Lejeune may feel the time is right for a new challenge.
There are also players we have that are likely to be looking elsewhere this summer, who may use the departure of Rafa to engineer a move away. Jonjo Shelvey has been unhappy for 18 months or so and is another linked to West Ham to get more regular football.
Bizarre claims have also surfaced that record January arrival Miguel Almiron is being watched by Real Madrid, after impressing in the Copa America. His departure would be incredibly unpopular like the mooted departure to Mnachester United of local lad Sean Longstaff, who could pocket Ashley a likely £25m. Club skipper Jamaal Lascelles is also being linked with a move abroad to Lazio in a player plus cash deal with former target Jordan Lukaku.
As ever, it is depressing news for Newcastle fans. This summer should have been all about Rafa building a squad to challenge the top half and for a cup and improving on the players we have. Instead, the good players we do have will likely be poached by other clubs as Ashley decides to self destruct – yet again.