Who next? Ayoze Perez's exit leaves Newcastle United fans fearing the worst
Let’s be clear, Ayoze Perez’s mind was all but made up last season.
The forward – who is close to joining Leicester City in a £30million deal – has been thinking about a move for some time. Perez, however, was feeling the pull of Spain, his homeland, after five years on Tyneside.
Yet the Canary Islander is set to make Leicestershire his new home. What’s going on? Certainly, the clubs in Spain, notably Valencia, that were interested in Perez couldn’t afford his fee.
Perez spoke about his future in April after scoring his first – and most likely his last – hat-trick for Newcastle at St James’s Park. He was asked if it would be hard to leave United, the club he joined five years ago from Tenerife as an unknown.
“Yeah, it’s going to be a difficult decision,” said Perez. “It depends on a lot of things.”
Perez was asked if the Rafa Benitez staying – or going – would be a factor in his thinking.
“Well, yeah,” he added. “Obviously, we all want him to stay, it means a lot for this club. Every fan wants him to stay as well. So there are a lot of things to think about, but we’ll see.”
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Benitez, of course, left last week when his contract expired – he’s now manager of Chinese Super League club Dalian Yifang – and Perez headed down to Leicester a couple of days later. Benitez, it’s worth noting, had been convinced that Perez could be persuaded to stay.
It turned out that owner Mike Ashley couldn’t persuade Benitez to stay at St James’s Park.
And now, the team which convincingly beat Fulham 4-0 on the final day of last season is without its two leading scorers – Perez and loanee Salomon Rondon. The promising partnership they formed with Miguel Almiron will not be seen again.
Who’s next? Isaac Hayden, we know, wants to leave for family reasons. Then there’s Sean Longstaff, a target for Manchester United. Others may well be questioning their futures as the club looks for a successor to Benitez.
The team he inherits will miss Perez’s workrate, intelligence – and, of course, his goals.