Newcastle season preview: Rafa Benitez still not getting the funds
Manager appears uneasy about Newcastle's summer
Last Updated: 06/08/18 10:58am
Rafa Benitez secured a top-half finish last season but the investment has not followed.
Last season: 10th
Title odds: 750/1
Relegation odds: 11/2
Major ins: Martin Dubravka, Ki Sung-yueng, Fabian Schar, Yoshinori Muto, Kenedy (loan)
Major outs: Mikel Merino, Matz Sels, Chancel Mbemba, Jack Colback (loan), Jesus Gamez, Massadio Haidara
Key player: Jamaal Lascelles
Newcastle became the first promoted team in five years to secure a top-half finish at the first attempt when Rafa Benitez guided them to tenth place thanks to a strong finish to the season. But any hope that this could prove the catalyst for further improvement is now diminished given the lack of investment in the club over the summer.
Benitez has brought in Ki Sung-yueng on a free transfer and will be hoping Fabian Schar and Yoshinori Muto can make an impact despite modest fees. Securing Martin Dubravka on a permanent transfer and completing another loan deal to bring back Kenedy were both important pieces of business given their huge impact in the second half of last season.
But it still feels like not enough. Certainly, Benitez is frustrated. Asked if the funds would be forthcoming, he said recently: "I have no idea. The fans have to be concerned, we are concerned. I'm really worried." He was speaking in the aftermath of a 4-0 pre-season defeat to Braga that suggests the uncertainty off the field could manifest itself on it.
In a world of ever-escalating transfer fees, Newcastle have not broken their transfer record in 13 years. Mike Ashley's protracted sale of the club has stalled and this has left them in limbo, hoping to do just enough to stay up but with an owner who is seemingly unwilling to invest any more than is absolutely necessary. It is not an inspiring environment.
The supporters remain passionate about their club and while Benitez is at the helm, they will continue to dream. Jamaal Lascelles has developed into a formidable centre-back - a reminder that there is still some talent at St James' Park. But with Benitez out of contract next summer, Newcastle go into the campaign with concern as well as excitement.
Phil Thompson's verdict
Rafael Benitez has done incredible stuff at Newcastle but it's just déjà vu. He needs more backing and he's not getting it. If he's going to stay then he's just got to get on with it as it is a joy for every Geordie that he is there. We hear about these standoffs but Rafa remains there so it can't all be bad.
The transfer business isn't fulfilling any of the passions, but they know Benitez can get them on a few good runs to get them over the line. Rafa has always been a great defensive organiser and signing the goalkeeper is key as he impressed me with the way he organised the back four. Jamaal Lascelles has been a player who has attracted the interest of top clubs and he'll be vital for Benitez in keeping the defensive unit solid.