Aleksandar Mitrovic was often “too tired” to talk to journalists after games last season.
The Newcastle United striker preferred to let his feet (and head) do his talking.
I can read news about him all the time. That means someone close to him was interested to do business.Rafa Benitez
Still, there was a suspicion inside St James’s Park that others, discreetly, were talking on his behalf.
Mitrovic – who has a cult following on Tyneside – is a story. Full stop.
And there were a lot of stories about Mitrovic, his selection and non-selection and his future during the club’s Championship campaign.
Rafa Benitez had his own ideas about the source of some Mitrovic stories.
“I can read news about him all the time,” said Benitez.
“That means someone close to him was interested to do business.”
Benitez, however, didn’t have any problems with Mitrovic himself.
“I said straightaway that he would stay, and his reaction when he was not playing was brilliant,” added United’s manager.
“He fought for his position, and I am happy with these kind of problems.”
Many fans would like Mitrovic to stay. Many others would be happy for him to go.
The 22-year-old polarises opinion.
Mitrovic is lauded by some for his power and passion, but derided by others for his lack of pace.
The Serbia international, unquestionably, can be a handful.
Most importantly, he can also score goals. He scored nine for a poor Premier League team the season before last.
That was a very, very good goal return for a young player in his first season in the English top flight.
Mitrovic netted six times last term, with four of his goals coming in the Championship.
He was good, but not great.
Mitrovic is a good player, albeit an indisciplined one.
Of course, he didn’t get too many chances because of the form of Dwight Gayle, who ended the campaign with 23 league goals.
It was clear early in the campaign that Benitez had no intention of pairing Gayle and Mitrovic up front.
Time and again, Benitez was asked about the chances of them playing together.
And time and again, he deftly deflected the questions. It just wasn’t going to happen.
Daryl Murphy, a short-term signing from Ipswich Town last summer, scored as many goals as Mitrovic in all competitions from few appearances.
Murphy, 34, has been told he can leave this summer.
Mitrovic, like Murphy, faces an uncertain future.
Unlike Murphy, the 22-year-old’s best years are ahead of him, but they are unlikely to be at St James’s Park.
Mitrovic, tellingly, did little to dampen speculation about his future when he spoke to journalist after scoring for Serbia against Wales earlier this month.
This time, he wasn’t too tired to talk.
“I’m very happy to help Newcastle back to the Premier League because that’s where the club deserves to be,” he said.
“I heard something about other clubs, but for now I just want to rest. I need to prepare for next season.
“If there are some good offers for me – which are also good for the club – come in for me over the summer then we will speak about it.
“If it doesn’t happen, then I’m still a Newcastle United player. I have three years on my contract.
“So we have to speak to the club, to the manager and we will see.”
Mitrovic should go. He needs to play at his age.
Should he stay at Newcastle, it’s hard to see him playing too many games. Gayle will be ahead of him in the pecking order, and so too might a new striker.
There will be some offers for Mitrovic this summer.
But will they be the “good offers” that Mitrovic spoke about after the Wales game in Belgrade?