It’s said to be “business as usual” at Newcastle United.
But there’s not been much business so far.
I’ve confirmed to Rafa (Benitez) and Lee (Charnley) that they can have every last penny that the club generates through promotion, player sales and other means in order to build for next season.Mike Ashley
And that’s a concern.
Rafa Benitez wants his business done as early as possible.
That’s just how he is.
Of course, it’s not always possible given the domino-like nature of the transfer market.
Some proposed deals, inevitably, can’t be finalised until the final weeks, days and hours of the summer window.
That’s just how it is.
But Benitez, United’s manager, was hopeful of early progress after meeting owner Mike Ashley last month.
Ashley – who is considering a full or partial sale of the club – publicly pledged to back Benitez with “every penny” the club generated through promotion.
Yes, every penny.
Has anything changed since then?
So far, Newcastle have signed Christian Atsu. And that’s it.
Benitez’s players return for the start of pre-season training in nine days.
A lot could happen in the next nine days.
Eibar defender Florian Lejeune – who has previously played in England with Manchester City – could arrive next week, though Newcastle are yet to trigger his £8.8million release clause.
But why is it taking so long?
United, after all, have long known his price, and, set against the huge fees that will invariably slosh around the Premier League this summer, it’s not a particularly expensive deal.
Of course, Newcastle must move a number of players, including Daryl Murphy, Grant Hanley, Emmanuel Riviere and Siem de Jong, out this summer.
United won’t be short of offers from Championship clubs for Murphy and Hanley.
Riviere and de Jong, signed by former chief scout Graham Carr, will be harder to move on given that they have three more years left on their contracts.
The pair will most likely be loaned out again.
A number of other players, like Jack Colback, Achraf Lazaar and Chancel Mbemba, also face uncertain futures.
But work needs to go on as far as incoming signings.
Benitez – who was left “disappointed” in January after the club failed to sign a single player – will want to see some progress in the transfer market next week.
Lejeune would be a start, but Benitez, keen for a large-scale overhaul of his squad in readiness for the Premier League, wants many more arrivals.
Fans are already speculating about the reasons for the slow start to the transfer window.
And Ashley’s apparent keenness to explore a sale, or part sale, of the club has been cited as a possible factor.
Does Benitez still have £80million – or more – to spend this summer plus whatever he can generate from sales?
The only predictable thing about Ashley is his unpredictably.
Ashley’s words couldn’t have been clearer on May 10 following his meeting with Benitez.
The billionaire said: “I’ve confirmed to Rafa and Lee (Charnley, United’s managing director) that they can have every last penny that the club generates through promotion, player sales and other means in order to build for next season.”
There’s a lot of building work to be done this summer.
And next week will either ease or exacerbate concerns about Ashley’s willingness to back Benitez as talks continue with potential investors.