It’s hardly been the most exciting of summer transfer windows for Newcastle United, but with a little more than four weeks left, it’s still not too late…
Having earned a return to the Premier League at the first time of asking after winning the Championship title, there was more good news for the Toon Army when Rafael Benitez agreed to prolong his stay at the club. The Spaniard is, after all, still regarded as one of the best coaches in Europe.
But is he getting sufficient opportunity to live up to this reputation?
In short, no.
Mike Ashley may have spent around £26million this summer in adding to the Newcastle squad, but in today’s market, this is not nearly enough. Indeed, at least six Premier League clubs have spent similar or more on a single player, whilst this amount has resulted in three new signings for the Magpies, one of which – Christian Atsu at £6.2million from Chelsea – spent last term on loan at the club anyway.
The other two cash arrivals are winger Jacob Murphy from Norwich City for £12million, and defender Florian Lejeune from Eibar for £8million. Fullback Javier Manquillo – who played 20 times for relegated Sunderland last term – joins on a free, and Mikel Merino on loan from Borussia Dortmund.
All could prove to be useful additions, but surely there are better options?
takefootball has a look at five players Ashley should (at least) try to sign this summer.
1) Chris Smalling, Manchester United – £15million
Deemed worthy enough to captain the Reds on occasion, the former Fulham youngster has fallen down the pecking order under Jose Mourinho. The central defender needs regular first team football to safeguard his place in the England squad ahead of the World Cup Finals, and he’d get that at St James’ Park as well as adding some big-game experience to Benitez’s side.
2) Kieran Gibbs, Arsenal – £10million
Like Smalling, Gibbs has lost his way with his current club and this is having an impact at international level. Once billed as Ashley Cole’s natural successor, the 27-year-old has lost his place in the Gunner side to Nacho Monreal, and with Sead Kolasinac arriving this summer, the left fullback is likely to find first-team football hard to come by at the Emirates Stadium in the coming weeks and months.
3) Ross Barkley, Everton – £30million
Why not? This is exactly the sort of transfer which would make a huge statement of intent for a club crying out for a big-name player. It is no secret that the England international has no future at Goodison Park, but with Tottenham Hotspur and possibly Chelsea interested in the 23-year-old, Benitez would have to act quickly and use all his man-management skills to land the talented midfielder.
4) Jack Wilshere, Arsenal – £20million
Like Barkley, this would be a huge signing. And like all those on this list Wilshere has lost his way at club level and needs a move to resurrect what was once a massively promising career. The 25-year-old midfielder spent last season on loan at Bournemouth but needs a permanent move to get back on track, and surely he would relish playing in front of 52,000 fans every other week?
5) Kelechi Iheanacho, Manchester City – £25million
At the moment, it looks as though Leicester City are favourites to sign Iheanacho. But until he puts pen-to-paper on a contract he is still a possibility for Newcastle, and one they should certainly consider. The 20-year-old has proven a prolific goalscorer for both club and country, hitting 21 in 64 for the Blues and six in 10 for Nigeria, and at his age there is little doubt he is going to get even better.
Of course, signing all the above would be something of a long-shot, not least as it would require Ashley to cough up at least £100million on top of the £26million already spent this summer. But he may find out that the alternative to such ambition is another battle against relegation for his club.