After such a good win at the weekend, it’s natural for Newcastle fans to allow on eye to the summer already. The key to Newcastle keeping momentum and continuing to build is of course keeping Rafa Benitez at the club. If we move the takeover aside for a moment, what would have to change to persuade the boss to sign a new deal for the long term?
1) Sign Kenedy and Dubravka
Rafa once again had his hands tied behind his back in the transfer market in January but pulled off two excellent loan signings in Kenedy and Dubravka. Both have transformed the side and allowed us to climb the table towards safety. Its three clean sheet at home in a row for the Slovakian stopper and a fee of £4m to make it permanent seems a normality surely.
Tying Kenedy down from Chelsea will be more problematic and certainly expensive. Chelsea are tough sellers and despite reports, I think it will take a club record fee to land the Brazilian. He has been infectious since arriving, is enjoying his football and is open to the move full time. As always under Ashley, the financials are the sticking point. Rafa will want him for sure so this deal will be good indication for the fans and Benitez if we mean business this summer.
2) Keep Lascelles at the club
More reports have resurfaced linking our club captain to Chelsea, a move first mooted in the New Year. He has been outstanding for us and his influence off the pitch can’t be underestimated either. A bid of £30m will be arriving apparently, as the London side look to bounce back from a poor season by their standards. Lascelles is happy on Tyneside but will want to see progress to try and get in the England side. If we show some ambition for once by insisting he isn’t for sale it could further persuade Rafa to stay here for the longer term and build the project around our best players, like Lascelles.
3) Finally deliver on a top striker
Slimani came on against Huddersfield and looked decent but the two glaring misses from Gayle earlier in the game highlighted just why we need someone more deadly at this level. Whether Slimani delivers and we sign him permanently or it is another option, we need to break our transfer record on a striker to show some real intent. Rafa won’t settle for penny pinching again this summer.
4) Implement long awaited training ground improvements
Upon arriving at the club, Rafa admitted he was shocked at the poor level of facilities we have for a club of our size. Plans we released to develop the training ground when Llambias presented his ‘five year plan’ but like much of the Ashley regime, this never materialised or was a PR stunt. To retain our best players and attract better ones, our facilities need to be up t scratch.
We feel like a much bigger club than say Brighton, yet the Seagulls’ training facilities totally outdo ours. Investment is needed to bring back the ‘big club’ feel Benitez wants to see return on Tyneside.
5) Overhaul the under 23’s and youth set up
In tandem with the training ground, we need to begin to yield better results from the reserve and youth teams. We have a very poor record of brining top level players through in the last decade and you get the sense a real malaise has set in. Several U-23 ‘stalwarts’ lik like Curtis Good and Tom Heardman have been released, meaning severe investment will be needed at that level, with Rafa clearly showing his ruthless streak in a bid to vastly improve the first-team underbelly and the amount of youngsters actually breaking through.
The Beardsley case should be cleared up one way or another soon but either way, a total overhaul is needed.
How likely is Rafa to stay at Newcastle? What other things do you think are key?