A transfer breakthrough at Newcastle and a happier Rafa Benitez – what we know

Rafa Benitez
Rafa Benitez
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You can’t always get what you want.

Rafa Benitez isn’t exactly getting what he wants this summer.

Long before Newcastle United secured promotion to the Premier League, lists were being drawn up by Benitez and his staff.

They were lists of targets in the event of promotion.

Newcastle, however, been unable to get Benitez’s top targets. And the lists have got shorter and shorter.

Some of those players proved too expensive. Other players were unavalable or unwilling to come to United.

So Benitez and managing director Lee Charnley have had to move on and look for alternatives.

United have been doing business – Mikel Merino yesterday became the club’s fifth summer signing – and there are more signings to come.

Put simply, Newcastle have had to sign the players available to them within their budget – not the players Benitez initially wanted to bring to St James’s Park.

In May. owner Mike Ashley promised Benitez “every last penny” the club generated through promotion and player sales. Ashley stands by that pledge.

Newcastle will bank upwards of £100million from promotion.

That’s a lot of money.

But it will only go so far in this summer’s hugely-inflated market when fees, contracts and so on are factored in.

Benitez needs a striker. But does he have £25million to spend on one player? No.

The transfer budget has to be spread thinly.

Most Premier League rivals need two or three signings. They can afford to drop £25million on one signing.

United, having just come up from the Championship, need half a team.

The paradox is that Benitez has too many players.

Benitez has a large squad – there are around 30 senior professionals at the club – but Newcastle’s manager doesn’t feel he has enough players capable of playing in the Premier League.

If, and it’s a big “if”, some or all of them are moved on, more money could be available next month.

The problem is that some might not leave until the final days, or even hours, of the transfer window.

But, in the meantime, Benitez has his hands tied.

Benitez must find bargains in a window when bargains will be in even shorter supply.

Merino, a defensive midfielder, is one example.

The club was offered Andreas Samaris, untested in the Premier League, by Benfica for around £17.5million.

Benitez likes the 28-year-old, but he couldn’t afford that.

So Merino was signed on a season-long loan. The move will become permanent if the 21-year-old makes a certain number of appearances. Deal done.

There’s still work to be done. Benitez needs at least one more midfielder, a striker and a goalkeeper.

Newcastle could also move for another left-back if Massadio Haidara, linked with St-Etienne, and Achraf can be moved on this summer.

Benitez updated fans directly about the club’s transfer efforts at a question-and-answer session at St James’s Park. The 57-year-old admitted that he had been “unhappy” earlier in the transfer window.

Benitez – who lost out on striker Tammy Abraham and goalkeeper Willy Caballero earlier in the summer – is happier now.

Right now, however, he has a squad which is short in two or three key areas.

The hardest thing to do in the Premier League is score goals – and signing strikers is harder still.