Rafa Benitez and Lee Charnley rebuild Newcastle’s squad – with £30million to spare

Dwight Gayle
Dwight Gayle

There was only one real story at Newcastle United yesterday.

And, predictably, the story was Moussa Sissoko.

Will he, won’t he. That was the question.

As it was, Sissoko joined Tottenham Hotspur in a £30million deal after a dramatic late move from the Premier League club.

The fact that there was no clamour for incoming signings in the final hours of the transfer window tells its own story.

Relegated Newcastle, for once, had already done their business. And they’d done the bulk of it early.

Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez

That’s what Rafa Benitez wanted. And managing director Lee Charnley – who faced calls to resign a few short months – delivered him the signings he wanted. Early.

If only United had had a window like this a year ago.

The sole arrival yesterday was Chelsea’s Christian Atsu, though it wasn’t quite a last-minute deal.

Atsu’s season-long loan move had all but been completed the night before.

Moussa Sissoko

Moussa Sissoko

In a few short months, Benitez and Charnley have rejuvenated and reinvigorated a tired squad that wasn’t fit for purpose.

In doing so, he has also breathed new life into the dressing room.

Newcastle set the tone with the captures of winger Matt Ritchie and striker Dwight Gayle.

To them, United isn’t a stepping stone, a big move before a bigger move.

They know the Football League, and they are prepared for the kicks and elbows that will come their way this season.

More followed, including Isaac Hayden, and then a few more followed them.

Some players, like goalkeeper Matz Sels and defender Jesus Gamez, will take time to adjust to the Championship, but Benitez has been clever in his recruitment. He targeted players with experience of the division.

Even the surprise signing of Daryl Murphy on a two-year contract made sense.

Needing back-up to Aleksandar Mitrovic, Benitez turned to the 33-year-old striker. Murphy can win headers, hold the ball up and score goals. That’s exactly what he needed to ensure the likes of Gayle, Ritchie and Ayoze Perez can thrive in the final third of the pitch.

Newcastle signed 12 players in total in the summer transfer window.

Around twice that figure left on permanent and loan deals, leaving Benitez with a core group to focus on between now and January, when the window reopens.

Between now and then, there can be no emergency loans.

So Benitez has been meticulous in assembling a squad with two players in every position.

United now have strength in depth.

The club has a squad capable of challenging at the top end of the Championship. It has gifted and gritty players, and Benitez has added height to a team which lacked aerial strength.

Yes, the club needs players capable of playing Premier League football. But Newcastle need to get out of the division first.

And that’s the hard bit.

Newcastle’s business, of course, hasn’t been so popular outside Tyneside.

There have been accusations that the club has “bought” the division.

Even a £100million spend wouldn’t guarantee promotion.

What the club has done is Benitez the best possible chance of getting promotion back to the Premier league this season.

And they’ve done it with a £30million-plus profit.

That’s good business.