By Joe Donnohue
Try before you buy. It’s a familiar concept and one which has most recently been adopted by Newcastle United. The loan signings of Martin Dúbravka and Kenedy in January of this year set the tone for the Magpies’ successful end-of-season charge into the top half of the Premier League table.
Competition for places was created in positions where Newcastle had lacked real Premier League quality. Consistent performances from the loanees were the bedrock to Newcastle’s upturn in form, something which had been missing from the likes of Christian Atsu, Jacob Murphy, Rob Elliot and Karl Darlow throughout the campaign.
The capture of Dúbravka earlier this summer was a signal that Newcastle’s intent was to strengthen, as is the case with every Premier League club, but familiar warning signs were afoot. The deal to bring the Slovakian international to St James’ Park on a permanent basis was a cheap one; a reported €2m loan fee followed by a €4m fee to sign the stopper outright.
Contrastingly, a deal to sign Kenedy would be altogether much more expensive. A 22-year-old Brazilian winger who had impressed during his short stint on Tyneside would not come cheap, if at all. Earlier rumours were purported to have said that some of Europe’s biggest clubs were monitoring Kenedy’s progress and situation with parent club Chelsea, leaving many Newcastle supporters resigned to the feeling that the silky Brazilian would not be returning to the North East any time soon.
Nevertheless, the left-sided winger – full name Robert Kenedy Nunes Nascimento, named after the famous U.S. President – has now rejoined the club, albeit on another loan deal. We are yet to find out concretely if an option-to-buy clause will be included or any obligatory future fees, but that would be crucial in securing a real talent and again show Newcastle’s intent to really compete, rather than idling by, securing safety from relegation but never threatening to challenge any further than 10th place.
Newcastle United are not known to have been particularly savvy in their loan dealings – the names Seydou Doumbia, Luuk de Jong and Facundo Ferreyra do little to set Black and White pulses racing – but the addition of Kenedy for the forthcoming season is one which certainly screams of intent. Newcastle, and most importantly Rafa Benítez, appear to not be content with rolling over and letting big clubs beat them to key targets, something which they could be accused of doing in the past.
There is no escaping the fact that United do not have the financial freedom to spend ridiculous sums of money in the transfer market. The now infamous, “I can not and will not” statement perhaps holds more weight than the publication of the club’s accounts when it comes to analysing how much will be spent in the transfer window.
Supporters of a realist disposition recognise that in the current climate, a deal to bring a promising young talent back to the club following an impressive few months is a step in the right direction. A small step, that much is true, but it is an indication that what goes on behind the scenes, despite a certain Spaniard having one hand tied behind his back, is shifting ever so slightly in favour of what is best for the club.
One thing must be made clear however, at no point does this suggest that a certain SportsDirect tycoon’s stance regarding the club’s spending has changed, nobody can know that apart from the notoriously tight-lipped man himself. What it does suggest though, is that by hook or by crook, Benítez is chipping away at the marble that is Newcastle United Football Club.
He may be armed with a rock-hammer rather than a chisel, but the permanent signing of Dúbravka, the re-signing of Kenedy and any other business – which looks likely with just one month remaining in the transfer window – indicates a step in the right direction towards Benítez’s vision for the club.
It may only be the club’s attitude towards loan signings, but beggars cannot be choosers and Newcastle United supporters know better than most, any forward step large or small is worth appreciating after a very sparse decade in that regard.