Our final day win at Fulham was a brilliant one, seeing us score 4 for the first time in the 2018/19 Premier League campaign and end the season in style for Rafa.
That said, when you look at the team that started the game at Craven Cottage, there’s several players who played that day who seem to have every chance of leaving this summer – or not signing permanently now their loan has ended.
A lot needs to be sorted at St James’ Park before players come and go this summer, with Rafa’s future not sorted a takeover talk rife, but here’s a look at six players who may have already played their last game for the club:
The midfielder’s form over the past 6 months in the face of adversity has been both a blessing and a curse. His hugely impressive displays in 2019 mean his value could well have doubled, but the fact he’s been so good has made the thought of losing him tough to accept. He has wanted a move away for ‘family reasons’ for over a year now, with him handing in his first transfer request last summer, so it feels like the club will allow him to move back down south should A) a fair offer arrive and B) we sign a capable replacement. Reports have suggested we value him at £15-20m, with the likes of West Ham, Brighton, Tottenham and Aston Villa all credited with interest in recent weeks.
To say Jonjo’s had a disappointing campaign would be an understatement, unfortunately. He’s had several niggling injuries, but, even when he’s recovered, he’s rarely been in Rafa’s first team plans. At one stage of the season he seemed to be behind Longstaff, Hayden, Ki AND Diame in the pecking order, and despite the fact he starred in our final day win at Fulham, you get the feeling he’s just not a ‘Benitez player’. It’s a shame given the undoubted talent he possesses, but it wouldn’t make much sense to have a £20m-rated midfielder and our biggest earner sat on the bench each week. If Rafa goes he could well stay, however it seems likely to me that he’s moved on – with West Ham looking like his most likely destination after long-term interest.
Going into the summer, many fans hopes we’d simply hand Rafa a new deal and see Salomon Rondon sign permanently as a result. Takeover talk has now taken over, but the Venezuelan appears to have received concrete interest from both Wolves and West Ham – meaning we’re at risk of missing out on our player of the season if we don’t act quickly. His 12 goals and 7 assists last season mean our decision to activate his £16.5m release clause at West Brom should be a no-brainer, however there’s lingering doubts as to whether Mike Ashley would sanction such a deal for a player turning 30 later this year. A move for 22-year-old Brazilian striker has been touted recently, but I sincerely hope we’re planning to sign him AND Rondon. Let’s hope his late goal at Fulham wasn’t his last in a Newcastle United shirt.
After 10 goals over the second half of the season and a stunning rise to form in 2019, the Spaniard seems to have attracted several admirers around Europe – and he’s hardly been shy to talk about a potential exit this summer. I get the feeling he *might* just stay if Rafa Benitez signs and we start to show some ambition as a result, however I expect him/us to receive several offers for his services – and he could well be tempted if a big La Liga side come in or the promise of Champions League football arrives. He’s one of Rafa’s first names on the team sheet and has been our top scorer over the past two seasons, so we’ll have to hope Benitez is given decent money if he’s forced to replace him this summer. Unfortunately, the best sports betting sites may have him down as the favourite to leave NUFC this summer.
His exit feels imminent as things stand. He had to make a certain number of starts over the 2018/19 season to automatically activate a 1-year extension on his contract, but the fact he failed to do that means his current deal is due to expire next month. It’s said he wants a two-year deal, although it seems the club are unwilling to sanction that, meaning he looks set to leave on a free transfer this month. I personally would like to see him stay another season, believing he’s still a solid back up option and one of our few ‘tacklers’, but I’ll trust Rafa’s judgement on this one if it’s his call. We’ll know more when the retained list is released in the coming days / weeks.
I sincerely hope he stays and have a feeling he’s one of the players in this list who’s least likely to leave, but there’s been doubts about his long-term future at the club lingering for a while now. He was regularly linked with a move away last summer and it was reported not so long ago that he will have a request for a new contract rejected. He has insisted that he’s loving life on Tyneside and promised to give his all for the club for as long as he’s wanted, however the fact he turns 30 this year makes you wonder if a certain Mike Ashley has other ideas.
The Brazilian has had a shocking season, failing to make any impact during his season-long loan spell from Chelsea. He’s now back at Stamford Bridge and is no doubt available to sign this summer and not in Sarri’s plans, but someone I just can’t see Benitez going back in for. We saw what he was capable of during his half-season loan spell last year, however he’s looked a fraction of the player we saw between January and May in 2018. Chelsea’s asking price seems too high (although I’d avoid him at all costs on current form) and a loan deal would be a waste given you only sign TWO players on temporary deals from fellow Premier League clubs.
Check out https://www.kiwibetting.com/ for the latest transfer odds this summer.