From Jesus Gamez to Mo Diame: Where Rafa Benitez's Championship signings for Newcastle United are now

Five years ago, Newcastle United were preparing for life in the Championship again.

Sunday, 25th July 2021, 3:17 pm

Star players such as Gini Wijnaldum, Andros Townsend and Moussa Sissoko had departed the club, leaving Rafa Benitez with a great task of rebuilding and reshaping a squad to ensure the Magpies were able to bounce-back at the first time of asking.

So, which players made the move to St James’s Park that summer, and where are they five years on? We take a look:

MATT RITCHIE

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NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - AUGUST 23: Rafael Benitez, Manager of Newcastle United speaks to Grant Hanley of Newcastle United during the EFL Cup second round match between Newcastle United and Cheltenham Town at St. James' Park on August 23, 2016 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

The most expensive transfer fee paid by Newcastle that summer was for Bournemouth’s Ritchie.

Ritchie helped guide the Cherries to promotion in 2015 and came to Newcastle with a reputation for deadly set-pieces and an almost unrivalled work ethic.

Five years on, he may have been converted to a wingback under Steve Bruce, but Ritchie hasn’t lost a single ounce of fight and determination and it was no coincidence Newcastle’s upturn in form at the end of last season coincided with Ritchie’s return to fitness.

DWIGHT GAYLE

Undoubtedly Newcastle’s player of the season in the Championship as it was his goals that fired them to promotion.

However, he has struggled to cement his place as a regular in the Premier League and will find himself on the fringes of the squad behind Callum Wilson once again this season.

MATZ SELS

Following the departure of Tim Krul, Newcastle needed another number one and Sels was brought into the club to be that man.

However, the then 24-year-old struggled with life in the Championship and after a few uninspiring performances, he was replaced by Karl Darlow.

Sels now plays for French side RC Strasbourg was named in Belgium’s Euro 2020 squad alongside Thibaut Courtois and Simon Mignolet.

GRANT HANLEY

Newcastle needed to strengthen their defence and so turned to Scottish international Hanley.

Hanley had a wealth of experience in the Championship with Blackburn Rovers and it was hoped that he would provide Benitez’s Newcastle with solidity and a “know-how”.

However, Hanley spent just one season at St James’s Park before moving to Norwich City, helping them to two promotions in the past three seasons.

CIARAN CLARK

Another defender brought in by Benitez was Aston Villa’s Clark.

Clark featured 34 times in the Championship for Newcastle and has played over 100 games in total, becoming a regular in the Premier League under Benitez and Steve Bruce.

DEANDRE YEDLIN

Yedlin, who was purchased from Tottenham Hotspur, had previously spent time on loan at Sunderland, so the pressure was high for the American to hit the ground running.

He duly did with a memorable last-minute goal at Derby County to seal a 2-0 win.

Yedlin became Newcastle’s number one right back and regularly duelled with Javi Manquillo for the spot until he was sold to Galatasaray in January.

MOHAMED DIAME

Despite having just sealed Hull City’s promotion with a wonder-strike at Wembley in the play-off final, Diame moved to Newcastle to play another season in England’s second tier.

After a steady start to life, Diame became an integral part to Benitez’s midfield and, alongside Jonjo Shelvey, was one of the main reasons for Newcastle’s upturn in form at the end of the 2017/18 season.

Diame departed Newcastle in the summer of 2019, joining Al-Ahli in Qatar, however, he now finds himself without a club after his contract expired at the beginning of this month.

DARYL MURPHY

Daryl Murphy was possibly the most unique signing of the window, and possibly the most unlikely signing during Mike Ashley’s entire reign as Newcastle owner.

Newcastle paid £3m for a 33-year-old striker and yet, despite Newcastle’s transfer policy, he was worth every penny. Deputising for Dwight Gayle when injured, Murphy scored some crucial goals and helped ensure Newcastle’s promotion.

Murphy left at the end of the 2016/17 season, joining Nottingham Forest. He moved on to Bolton Wanderers after one year at the City Ground before joining Waterford in 2020 where he still plays.

ISAAC HAYDEN

Possibly the best long-term signing made in this window was to bring in a relatively unknown Isaac Hayden from Arsenal.

Hayden has had to bounce back from numerous setbacks during his time at Newcastle but is now one of the first names on the team sheet and a fans favourite for his no-nonsense, tough-tackling, combative playing style which adds a bit of metal to the midfield.

ACHRAF LAZAAR

Newcastle paid £2m to bring Lazaar to Tyneside with the hope that he would become their number one left-back.

However, despite being on the winning side in every league game he played, Lazaar failed to impress in any of the four Championship games he featured in and was sent on loan to Benevento in Italy the following campaign.

Unsuccessful loans at Sheffield Wednesday and Cosenza followed before he was released by Newcastle. Lazaar was then signed on a free by Watford, where he sealed promotion, before being released at the end of last season.

CHRISTIAN ATSU

Atsu came to Newcastle on an initial loan deal and impressed Benitez so much that he was signed permanently the following summer.

Atsu, whose highlight in a Newcastle shirt was scoring a wonderful free-kick against Cardiff which sent the away end into delirium, left the club on a free transfer this summer, joining Saudi Arabian side Al-Raed.

JESUS GAMEZ

Gamez came to Newcastle having played over 200 games in La Liga. However, he featured in just seven league games, totalling 298 minutes of action during his time at the club.

After his contract at Newcastle expired in 2018, Gamez retired from football.

STUART FINDLAY

Brought in on a free transfer from Celtic, Findlay joined the club with a view to him becoming a future first-team regular. After spending most of the season in the under 23 squad, Findlay was sent on loan to Kilmarnock ahead of the 2017/18 season.

After his loan spell, he signed permanently for the Scottish side. In February, Findlay moved across the Atlantic and now plays for Philadelphia Union in the MLS.

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