Vurnon Anita was good at Newcastle, but was he THAT good?

Vurnon Anita
Vurnon Anita

Even after five years, I never really made my mind up on Vurnon Anita.

But, let’s be clear, Leeds United have signed a good footballer.

They’ve also signed a good character.

Anita – who helped Newcastle United win promotion last season – is heading back to the Championship.

Rafa Benitez liked Anita. A lot.

Benitez trusted him. Anita, an intelligant footballer, was able to take on board Benitez’s instructions.

And he ended up starting 24 of the club’s 46 Championship fixtures.

Anita, signed more as a midfielder in the summer of 2012, was used as a right-back by Benitez.

It was a surprise, given Anita’s keenness to stay at United, that a deal couldn’t be done to keep him at St James’s Park.

Anita, at 28, is a good age and, at the very least, he would have offered competition for DeAndre Yedlin had he stayed on Tyneside.

It was more surprising that Yoan Gouffran, 31, was offered a new deal by Benitez.

Gouffran, however, has not yet committed to the club.

Anita, meanwhile, had his faults.

For me, he was never strong or aggressive enough to be a top Premier League midfielder, though he was competitive enough to thrive in English football’s second tier.

But this is counter-balanced by his intelligence on and off the ball.

Anita also has a good workrate and injury record.

A glance at Anita’s United stats tells you that he never started more than 28 league games in a season.

Successive managers never quite know what he was.

Was he a midfielder? Or a right-back? Was he defensive or offensive?

Anita’s versatiltiy was a strength, but maybe it was also a weakeness.

He could move and manipulate the ball in midfield, but he wasn’t able to dominate his opponent often enough.

Though when he was good, he was very, very good.

Anita’s also a very likeable person.

He was polite and courteous at Newcastle. When he spoke, he spoke well.

And when he didn’t want to speak, he still had a smile.

I never quite made up my mind about where he could best contribute, but it’s hard to argue with his performances at right-back last season.

Yes, he had a few uncomfortable afternoons, but that’s the Championship for you.

It’s an uncomfortable division.

Some teams did target Newcastle’s full-backs. And yes, they had some success.

But no team conceded few goals than United, and Anita earned his medal.

The Holland international could have left in the wake of relegation like some his team-mates.

But he didn’t He stayed. And he did his best.

I could never quite work out Anita’s best position, but I liked him.

Leeds fans will probably like him too.

Anita brings experience, calmness and technical ability.

He should do well at Leeds, a club which hopes to follow Newcastle into the Premier League.

Anita, having shown he can handle the pressures that come with playing at St James’s Park, is well-equipped for life at Elland Road.