Why Rafa Benitez is prepared to ‘wheel and deal’ at Newcastle

Rafa Benitez.
Rafa Benitez.

It’s not 2016. Rafa Benitez doesn’t have a Moussa Sissoko or a Georginio Wijnaldum to sell.

But Benitez does have an Aleksandar Mitrovic, who is wanted by Fulham.

And there are other players that clubs would gladly take from Newcastle United.

Two years ago, Benitez rebuilt his squad, and turned in a £30million profit on player trading, thanks to the sales of Sissoko and Wijnaldum to Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur respectively.

United’s manager hoped the £30million would be available for him to spend in future transfer windows, but it ended up tiding the club over during its year in the Championship.

Benitez manager must sell again this summer – and he doesn’t have a problem with that. He wants to move on a number of players, including Mitrovic, Matz Sels, Chancel Mbemba, Achraf Lazaar and Jack Colback.

If you don’t have the money, the main thing is to be sure that if you sell this one for £40million, you have two at £20million who can do well, then you can be better.

Rafa Benitez

However, Benitez could have to make some tough choices this summer given that he will have a limited transfer budget.

It was maybe telling – and worrying – that owner Mike Ashley wanted to know which players Benitez felt he could sacrifice early in discussions on the summer transfer window.

Benitez doesn’t want to lose any of his key players, but never say never. He admitted that he was prepared to “wheel and deal” late last season.

Asked if he would consider selling captain Jamaal Lascelles late last season, Benitez said: “Not really. If you want to continue growing, normally you have to try to keep your best players.

“Jamaal has a great potential, but if you cannot compete or you cannot keep the level of your team, then maybe you have to sell one player to be sure that you can bring in other players.

“When people say ‘wheel and deal’ – sometimes you have to do it, because if not, you don’t have the money.

“If you don’t have the money, the main thing is to be sure that if you sell this one for £40million, you have two at £20million who can do well, then you can be better.”

A number of clubs have enquired about Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle. Could Benitez afford to sell one or both of them? Could he afford not to take the money?

Benitez wants a small squad this coming season, but it needs to be big on Premier League quality.

“If we want to compete, we need to bring in some players – we need competition,” said Benitez. “We have a squad of 24 players, we need to make sure we have as much of this 24 that they can start and play well in the Premier League.”

Benitez can fund some of his spending by moving players out of the club this summer, but it’s a delicate balance. You might be able to sell for an inflated fee, but then you’ll find the player you want has an inflated price tag.

It’s one thing selling a player. It’s quite another replacing him with a better player. You need to keep your best players.