Should Rafa Benitez let Grant Hanley leave Newcastle United? A case for and against...

Grant Hanley against Wolves earlier this season.
Grant Hanley against Wolves earlier this season.

This morning brought reports that Grant Hanley could be set for the Newcastle United exit door.

Former boss Paul Lambert is reportedly keen to be reunited with the summer signing from Blackburn Rovers and could launch a loan move before the transfer window slams shut.

But just how likely is that deal? Here we take a look at the conundrum facing Rafa Benitez ahead of deadline day.

Hanley's season so far

Age: 25

Transfer fee (approx): £5m

Last club: Blackburn Rovers

Linked with: Wolves - loan deal

Appearances: 4(5)

Championship starts: 1

Goals: 1

EXIT: A case to allow Hanley to depart

It's fair to say the defender has seen his game time limited this season.

In fact, the centre-half has started more games for Scotland in the European Championship qualifiers than he has for Newcastle in the Championship this season.

Signed for around £5 million in the summer, it was expected the big, strong former Rovers skipper would become one of United's leaders on and off the park.

But due to the form of Jamaal Lascelles and Ciaran Clark he has found it difficult to break into the United starting XI.

And with Chancel Mbemba on his way back from the Africa Cup of Nations very soon, Hanley, who had the captain's armband for the FA Cup tie at Oxford United, faces a fight to the Magpies' third choice central defender.

I really don't think that was the kind of battle he swapped Ewood Park for the bright lights of St James' Park for.

Hanley wants games. But will he get them at United? It remains to be seen.

Recently, he said: "It has been frustrating at times.

"I haven’t played as much as I’d like to.

"But having said that, it’s been because the team has been doing so well.

"There’s not an awful lot you can grumble about you just need to keep your head down."

With those comments he has hardly been angling for a move but the dangling carrot of matchtime could sway opinion.

From Rafa's perspective, would Hanley be a miss? Maybe. But he has rarely called on the central defender. And the case could be that allowing him to leave would be beneficial, should it free up wriggle-room in a tight January budget.

KEEP: A case to keep on Tyneside

It has been said time and time again - the Championship is a long, old season.

And, although United are more than half way through the campaign they still have 19 games to go.

That's 19 games for an injury crisis, and plenty of time for one or either of Lascelles or Clark to get a ban.

In that situation, with a return to the Premier League on the line, who could step up?

Well, United do have youngster Stuart Findlay, who performed admirably alongside Hanley in the FA Cup third round replay against Birmingham. And then there is also Curtis Good, who was less impressive in the Oxford loss.

The other is obviously Mbemba. But the problem with the DR Congo international has been that he has not performed at Championship level.

Put simply he has not fitted into a 'Benitez United' too well at all.

And as a result it is no shock to see him offered as bait to lure Andros Townsend back to SJP.

While a major case could be made to say Hanley is more than capable of stepping in should either of the first choice duo drop out, the biggest reason for keeping him could lie in the Mbemba exit talk. Allowing the African to depart in order to secure much needed forward reinforcements, could be a risk worth taking. And in that scenario there really is no better player to have as the last remaining back up than Hanley, who barely missed a game for Rovers in his final few years at Ewood.

VERDICT: Should he stay or should he go?

Realistically Lambert can hope to land Hanley all he wants but it seems unlikely that Benitez will allow him to leave.

Due to Mbemba's unreliability this campaign, Hanley will no doubt be United's turn-to man between now and May as they look to fight Brighton all the way for the second tier title.

And if Sam Allardyce bites on the Mbemba for Townsend deal, Hanley will become an increasingly crucial player as the campaign wares on.

Put simply, he's a keeper. Well, until the summer, at least, when things may be reassessed.