With so many dubious rumours flying around at this time of year, it’s hard to know ho to believe, but one man whose views are often respected are George Caulkin’s – the reputable North-East correspondent from the Times.
Today, George has offered an insight into Rafa Benitez’s situation this month, giving a detailed look into just what the Spaniard is dealing with as we move a third of our way into the January transfer window.
It’s a long-ish read, but one that’s well worth looking at to gain a feeling for what’s going on behind the scenes at NUFC:
Here’s his brilliant piece on Benitez’s situation 10 days into the January transfer window, with Rafa still without an idea of budget, never mind a signing to NUFC’s name:
“They are as feverish as always; making and fielding calls, seeing what’s out there, working the angles, plotting how a rival club’s move for player X might free player Y. This is the grind of the transfer window and Newcastle United are grinding through it like everybody else, except in one significant regard. “David Blaine would struggle to make any magic from what we’ve got available,” says one person involved in the club’s recruitment process.
“This is becoming an old, old story at St James’ Park, one of stasis and uncertainty. A year ago, Rafa Benítez, then leading his side in the Sky Bet Championship, held meetings, identified targets and set up the deals which the manager believed would assure promotion. Nothing happened, no explanations. Last summer, he did the same, but procrastination cost Newcastle players and from that point it was catch-up.
“It is said that when Benítez brings up targets with Lee Charnley, the managing director, the Spaniard is asked who he can trim from his first-team squad, the same impasse as the summer. Benítez does not wish to sell unless or until he knows he can bring in better. He has spoken to Mike Ashley, Newcastle’s reluctant owner, and warned that spending this month was the best way to protect his investment.
“As things stand, there is no evidence Benítez is being listened to. So he and his colleagues go through the motions, sounding out clubs, speaking to agents. Newcastle need to improve and they need to be ready. Daniel Sturridge? Yeah, they’ll ask the question, but Liverpool would prefer to sell, which rules out one avenue and the striker’s £150,000-a-week wages mitigates against a loan. “Impossible,” says the source, who has asked anyway.
“Similar applies to Joe Hart; on-loan at West Ham United from Manchester City and “offered” to Newcastle through an intermediary. “It’s pie in the sky stuff,” according to the man in the know, far too complex. Nobody does anybody else favours, which is why Benítez could not countenance Jonjo Shelvey leaving for West Ham, even if David Moyes hardened a vague interest in him. There would be peril in selling to a rival.
“Newcastle continue to look at temporary solutions. Just as they had five months ago, Newcastle have a framework in place to take Kenedy on loan from Chelsea but are again at the whim of Antonio Conte. Benítez has understandable concerns about the match fitness of Liverpool’s Danny Ings, but he is another option. Ings will go eventually, they think, but for now the player is fighting for his place.
“This is the flotsam and jetsam of the market, identical for everybody. What is different this time is the prospective takeover which looms over Newcastle. When, in the middle of last month, a jolt of progress was made, an agreement between Ashley and Amanda Staveley was in reach. Staveley had bid £300 million and there was an acceptance in both camps that money should be made available to Benítez. Agonisingly, an accord remains just beyond their fingertips.
“Staveley remains confident that Ashley will sell to her and hopefully by next month. The alternative – and the deflation which would follow hard behind – does not bear thinking about, but we have had a little taste over the past few weeks. It is said that Charnley’s instincts are to back Benítez in the market but he does not have the power to act unilaterally and Ashley, who shows little interest in Newcastle, has been on holiday. And so they drift on.
“So far, there has been little of the frustration which Benítez showed either a year ago or last summer. He is still asking the questions, still pushing for action, still pushing for more, but he is focusing on the team and what he can control. He has to. Perhaps the logjam will end and he will get some clarity – Ashley is never less than unpredictable – but if he assumes the worst, anything else is a bonus and relegation must still be avoided.
“We’re determined not to get angry this time,” the source says but, in some ways, a sense of resignation is worse. In matters such as this, Ashley’s Newcastle have demonstrated repeatedly they are not the ambitious, progressive club which Benítez thought they could become and although the manager is still under contract, with a penalty clause which prevents him walking out, the realisation is dismaying.”
It makes for deflating reading at times, but it sums up the situation excellently.
The last paragraph sums it up perfectly. This is not the NUFC Benitez thought he was taking over, with Ashley stripping us of the chance to progress as Rafa hoped to.
For now, let’s just hope the odd signing can be secured in a bid to guarantee Premier League survival. Once that’s confirmed, hopefully we can look forward to a bright future with Benitez and new owners.
It’s all ifs and buts, but we must live in hope as long as Benitez keeps faith in us.