By Luke Andersen
Now that the World Cup has concluded, football fans up and down the country have a chance to concentrate solely on the tos and fros of the transfer window – some with more excitement than others I might add.
No shock therefore that further rumours this morning courtesy of the Chronicle were that Newcastle were ‘monitoring’ (yes there’s that word again) the situations of West Brom’s Salomon Rondon, Liverpool’s Belgium International forward Divock Origi and Bournemouth striker Joshua King.
It’s worth noting at this juncture that most of the speculation coming out of the media outlets during this time the year has as much chance of being dreamt up by a journalist whilst they’re sat on the toilet as of actually arriving from a trustworthy source with inside knowledge.
However, what is interesting is that all three linked players all appear to be at the same sort of level – players who are somewhat surplus to requirements at their current clubs; albeit for differing reasons but who wouldn’t require Mike Ashley having to book himself in for an electrocardiogram check-up should Newcastle cough up the fee for their services.
The Chronicle reports suggest that the Origi deal may well be a loan offer, the King deal a permanent one, but considering how little we genuinely know about Rafa’s transfer budget and what Charnley and Ashley are discussing above his head, then the length of the individual deals are somewhat of a side issue.
Salomon Rondon is a player who Newcastle have been linked with on several occasions – and not just during the course of this transfer window. Whether this suggests Rafa Benitez does indeed hold a candle for the Venezuelan Striker is again, anyone’s guess, but perhaps the fact that he has a £16.5 million pound release clause has something to do with it.
If there’s genuine interest in Rondon should Newcastle fans be concerned? When a link to a player throws up more questions than answers then the answer must be apparent…
Rondon’s never really been prolific in his entire career. Gaining notoriety during a two year spell at Malaga (2010-2012) when he scored 25 times in 67 appearances – his current best return at a single club.
To be fair, those figures aren’t bad but when you compare it with his return at West Brom where he’s managed just 24 goals in 108 appearances then we see a clearer picture of his ability in the English premier league.
Whilst he’s mostly renowned for his hold up play; fairly strong and with decent pace, his finishing is often called into question – and is he really any better than Mitrovic?
Whilst I don’t want to get into the whole should we or shouldn’t we Mitrovic debate, we need to remember that Rafa is a world class manager who doesn’t stand fools lightly. Mitrovic’s bubble burst at Newcastle due to his poor disciplinary record and Rafa trusts players who give their all and gel with their teammates – Just look at Shelvey’s re-emergence since Christmas having not been booked, and the faith shown in Joselu who for all his apparent lack of talent, plays an important role in the morale of the squad, and gives his all whenever he’s on the field of play.
If he did indeed end up signing for NUFC then fans would certainly be putting their hopes on an improved level of teammate for Rondon to play alongside helping in an increased goal tally. An optimistc question asks whether signing Rondon alongside Townsend for example, with Kenedy playing on the other flank make a case for the sum is greater than its parts?
Whilst Rondon is probably looking for a move due to West Brom’s relegation from the top flight, Joshua King would be more likely seeking a move after falling out of favour at Bournemouth.
King looked every inch a premier league striker during the 2016/2017 season with 16 goals. His pace and movement, along with a very decent level of skill and technique led to him being a real danger man for any side coming up against him in form.
King’s return last season fell way down on that level though, and any approach from Newcastle would again be met with a high level of fans’ trepidation.
At 26, King is two years Rondon’s junior, and he’s now approaching his peak years as a professional footballer. Combine that with Rafa’s tactical nous and King could end up being a very decent buy, but he wouldn’t come at the kind of bargain-basement price that Newcastle have recently been associated with; and at around £20m the deal-brokers may feel it’s too high a price to pay for somewhat of a gamble.
In terms of gambling on player purchases, if the Chronicle reports are to believed then perhaps Divock Origi on a season long loan is the deal which would suit Newcastle best?
Sure; Origi is again a far from prolific goal-getter, with a total of 12 goals for Liverpool in 51 appearances since 2014, but it’s no surprise that he’s found playing time difficult at Anfield what with the abundance of talent at their disposal – and they still have Daniel Sturridge on their books for the upcoming season.
Jurgen Klopp has recently been quoted as offering Sturridge another opportunity at Liverpool. If this is really the case then Origi’s chances of regular first team football will have diminished even further.
Perhaps another reason he hasn’t managed to break into the Liverpool starting XI regularly is Origi’s inability to find form on a regular basis. For all he seems to have most of the tools to be a top forward at his disposal, he has the reputation of a very raw, somewhat unpredictable player. Can Rafa harness that talent and ability and turn him into a more rounded forward? And if he can then for how long would Newcastle reap the benefits – with a season long loan deal, only an option to buy would allow us first refusal should he end up being a real success under Rafa’s schooling.
So with all three potential deals mentioned, the crux of it lies at Rafa Benitez’s door. The vast majority of fans will trust his judgement in whoever he manages to bring in, whether that be Rondon, King, Origi on loan, or someone else entirely. His ability to improve his players and have them work together as a team is what sets him apart from any manager Newcastle have had since Sir Bobby, and with this in mind it’s far less concerning that we are linked with players with somewhat dubious goal scoring records than if someone like Alan Pardew were still in charge.
The issue of Newcastle’s lack of spending and apparent unwillingness to back Rafa fully whilst stalling over deals is infuriating to fans, but if this is the way Ashley and co are playing it then we are going to have to live with the fact that Rondon and company are the level we can hope for right now. The glimmer of hope, and perhaps what Ashley and Charnley are counting on, is that Benitez can turn a lump of coal into a diamond, and with it an out of favour player into the next great Newcastle United number 9.