Newcastle United have finished the transfer window in a worse position than they were at the beginning of it. They may have improved the squad and made six good additions, but their future is clouded in uncertainty and the feel-good factor of relegation has long passed. Rafa Benitez openly spoke of his unhappiness regarding the recruitment and he will be even more furious that further additions weren’t made during the last week.
The Chronicle report that Benitez freed more than £200,000-a-week from the wage budget by offloading a number of fringe players during the final week. However, he was given no license to then bring players in like he had expected and the lack of ambition from above is evident. The marriage between Mike Ashley and the Magpies’ boss was always going to be a fragile one. The recent transfer window shows how they contrast and it seems unlikely that they can work together for the long-term.
This will go down as a huge disappointment for Newcastle, as they failed to push on in the way that many expected them to, but they did make some good signings. Florian Lejeune looks to be a great signing and he improves their defence massively. Mikel Merino is another excellent addition and these two players show that Benitez can still find value in an inflated market. All six additions look capable of playing a part in first-team, but they should have added more.
The biggest disappointment is that the club have sucked all of the enthusiasm out of the club. Last season, there was a positive mood and everyone was pulling in the same direction, but the club is now divided. Rumours continue to surface regarding Benitez’s future and there won’t be one Newcastle supporter that would think badly of the Spaniard if he did decide to walk out. He has ambition to manage at the highest level and he won’t achieve that under Mike Ashley.
It is a hugely questionable approach and it hasn’t changed, despite two relegations. Ashley continues to run Newcastle on a budget and it is clear he doesn’t understand football. Anybody looking at the squad at St James’ Park can see that it isn’t as strong as it needs to be. Their failure to sign a left-back is a huge error as they won’t have a recognised player in that position until Paul Dummett returns in November. The Magpies’ owner has taken a huge and unnecessary gamble this summer. If it backfires, he will lose Benitez and the club’s Premier League status.
The next few weeks will be fascinating as they will show us a lot about Benitez’s mindset. He is a professional and he will get on with things for now, but if an offer was incoming from another Premier League club, he might just consider it after this summer. There is no trust between him and Ashley now.
Supporters will be hoping that he stays, but it looks like he is approaching the end of his time as Newcastle manager. If he does leave, it will be the biggest crisis of the Ashley era and the owner will have nobody to blame but himself.