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?