Newcastle United’s players were all smiles when they reported back after their summer holidays.
Whatever his private frustration at the club’s stalled recruitment, there was a smile too from Rafa Benitez.
Benitez, smartly dress in a blazer, was first through the door at Benton yesterday morning.
Then came the more casually-dressed players.
Even Emmanuel Riviere was back at the club.
The striker managed a smile as he walked through the door, clutching his boots, with midfielder Henri Saivet.
Riviere and Saivet – who were loaned out last season – are not in Benitez’s plans.
Other players, like forward Siem de Jong, are also facing uncertain futures at United.
De Jong wants another chance at the club, but the forward, on a long-term contract, could well be loaned out again.
Defender Grant Hanley, wanted by Sheffield Wednesday, and striker Daryl Murphy likely to head back to the Championship.
Others will get a better idea of where they stand in the coming days and weeks.
And they may not be smiling for long.
Benitez – who let go long-serving Vurnon Anita this summer – is ruthless when he has to be, but he may not be able to be as ruthless as he wants to be given the club’s limited transfer budget.
Benitez could have well over £80million to spend if United – who today signed defender Florian Lejeune from Eibar – can move on a number of fringe players.
That sounds a lot of money.
But it will only go so far given the rampant inflation in the transfer domestic market.
Newcastle’s transfer pot will have to be spread thinly.
Benitez needs half a dozen or more Premier League players.
Brighton and Hove Albion and Huddersfield Town, promoted with United, are in similar predicaments.
But the rest of the Premier League won’t need to do so much business.
They can target two or three key positions – and spend heavily on those players.
Hence the move to offer a new deal to out-of-contract Yoan Gouffran, a player he trusts.
Benitez doesn’t want to have to be signing squad players AND Premier League starters this summer.
But he does have a large squad. And moving on the likes of Riviere and Saivet, signed on departure chief scout Graham Carr’s watch, will be easier said than done.
In the meantime, Benitez must make do with what he has and mend where he can.
The 57-year-old jas immeasureably improved the club since he arrived in March last year.
And there’s no telling just how many of those smiling players who reported back for training yesterday will line up against Tottenham Hotspur at St James’s Park on the opening weekend of the coming season.