Based on his performances so far this season, it’s quite clear that signing Salomon Rondon on a permanent basis should be towards the top of both Benitez and the board’s list this summer.
He turns 30 later this year so I’m not expecting Ashley to spend big – so a ‘swap deal’ involving Dwight Gayle looks like our biggest hope of landing him permanently.
It’s also worth mentioning that West Brom’s loan move for Jacob Murphy could also play a part (if he impresses and they end up wanting to keep him), whilst their reported interest in Isaac Hayden just last month could also give us leverage – especially when he’ll be available and pushing for a move in that direction.
Last summer it was made clear that the Venezuelan was available at £16m – a release clause waiting to be activated following West Brom’s relegation.
In typical Mike Ashley fashion, however, he wanted to have him on the cheap and opted for a loan deal instead – something he may be regretting now given £16m seems a VERY reasonable fee on current form.
The worry is that his successful season at St James’ leads to the Baggies asking big money for him this summer, but the fact Gayle is such a pivotal part of their plans right now could mean a part exchange makes so much sense for all parties.
We shall see, but I would not be surprised to see the two swap clubs on a permanent basis.
That’s the plan anyway, as I can’t see a world where Ashley pays big for a player approaching his 30’s – not matter how good he’s been or how much Benitez wants to keep him.