Rafa Benitez has hinted that Lee Charnley will be in talks with West Brom at the end of the season to discuss a potential permanent deal for Salomon Rondon – but is only focused on seeing the striker score goals for now.
This comes after the on-loan striker’s stunning performance at St James’ Park on Saturday, with him scoring two goals, holding up the ball superbly and running himself into the ground in the 2-1 win over Bournemouth.
It was clear over the summer that Rafa was keen to activate his £16m release clause following the Baggies’ relegation from the top flight, however it also became apparent that a certain Mike Ashley was reluctant to pay this for a striker nearing 30.
Here’s what he’s had to say when asked about the possibility of making Rondon’s loan a permanent deal next summer:
“I don’t know the terms of the contract or when we discuss that.
“If he keeps scoring goals, Lee (Charnley, United’s managing director) will be looking at the terms of the contract and worrying about that.”
Rafa then talked about his efforts to sign the big Venezuelan over the summer, admitting that he was his number one striker target and someone he feared he may not be able to sign once the £16m release clause expired:
“He was the No 1 target because of the price,”
“I liked the player, I was in contact with his agent, working on the possibility.
“It was more difficult (when the clause expired), but when they were so interested in Dwight Gayle, we knew there was a possibility because we had the second striker with pace and mobility in (Yoshinori) Muto at the same time.
“It was a chance to get a second striker with experience of the Premier League.”
“Now is not the time to talk about that – just enjoy the goals he scored.”
So, it seems Gayle’s exit sealed the deal and, for me, this was a very wise swap.
Many feared we’d made a big mistake when watching Gayle score for fun in the Championship over the past few months, but I always maintained that Rondon would suit our system and the lone striker role FAR more effectively than Dwight – and he proved that over the weekend.
Play like that most weeks and Ashley may soon re-consider his buying policy of only spending money on players 26 and under.