Mike Ashley will want to block a Newcastle United move for Salomon Rondon for one reason only

Salomon Rondon or Aleksandar Mitrovic – who’s the best No 9? Had that question been asked last August, the response on Tyneside would have been split.

By Miles Starforth
Monday, 25 March, 2019, 10:24
Salomon Rondon.

But is there anyone left who would remain to be convinced that Rafa Benitez made the right decision by selling Mitrovic and signing Rondon?

In goalscoring terms, Mitrovic is having a marginally better season than Rondon as he’s scored 10 Premier League goals – and that’s one more than on-loan Rondon. Mitrovic, however, has played 763 more minutes of football.

Rafa Benitez.

Mitrovic, again, has proved that he’s a Premier League striker, though Fulham, his club, has struggled. The team is second bottom of the division and seemingly destined for the Championship.

Newcastle, meanwhile, are 13th in the league and just three points away from Benitez’s 38-point target.

A report last week claimed that Mitrovic will look to leave Fulham in the event of relegation. A £40million price tag has been mooted.

Aleksandar Mitrovic.

That’s a lot of money for a 24-year-old who was sold for just over £20million eight months ago.

Benitez wanted to spend less than that, £16.5million to be precise, last summer to activate Rondon’s release clause at West Bromwich Albion, but Newcastle’s hierarchy didn’t think that would be a good deal given his age.

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Benitez wanted a physical striker with more mobility.

United’s manager felt that Mitrovic wasn’t mobile or quick enough for the role he had in mind.

Mitrovic’s greatest strength, in Benitez’s view, is his physicality, and that is a double-edged sword given this disciplinary record. Rondon can be just as physical, but he’s less aggressive.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t realise just how good Rondon was when the club eventually signed him on loan in a deal which saw Dwight Gayle go to The Hawthorns.

When United were on the back foot in the first half of the season, the ball almost always stuck up front.

That was when he had his back to goal. Over the past few months Rondon, more often than not, has been facing goal with Ayoze Perez and Miguel Almiron alongside him – and the club’s results speak for themselves.

You don’t hear Mitrovic mentioned too often on Tyneside. The debate has been settled, once and for all. Mitrovic was, and is, a capable player, but he wasn’t the player Benitez wanted, and the debate around him was an unwelcome distraction. He had to go.

Ironically, the player then-Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic had asked for when he first contacted Benitez was Gayle. Mitrovic had only ended up at Craven Cottage after a proposed move to former club Anderlecht broke down at the 11th hour in January last year.

One advantage Mitrovic has got over Rondon – who scored for Venezuela in their 3-1 win over Argentina last week – is his youth. And, at 29, he’s not a player owner Mike Ashley will want to sign permanently.