It almost became an annual tradition on Tyneside; sell your key players and watch your season collapse.
There’s a reason Rafa Benitez wanted full control of recruitment when negotiating whether or not to stay at St James’ Park following Newcastle’s relegation last season. Because, under the previous regime dominated by the intuition of experienced scout Graham Carr, The Magpies were left exposed by their baffling signings and even stranger sales.
In recent years, the likes of Paul Dummett, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Jamaal Lascelles, all linked with Premier League clubs in recent weeks, may have been flogged to the highest bidder and the funds, or at least a fraction of them, reinvested in cheap, second grade imports.
But, according to The Chronicle, Benitez has made it abundantly clear that no one will be sneaking out of the St James’ exit door in the New Year this time around. And with good reason. It seems Newcastle have finally realised that selling key players midway through the campaign doesn’t exactly lay the foundations for a strong finish.
Two years ago, defender Mapou Yanga Mbiwa left for Roma and, soon after, an injury-stricken Newcastle slipped into an eight-game winless slump, conceding 18 times in a run that left them on the verge of relegation. If only they hadn’t sold a valuable and versatile squad player just a few weeks before.
The season prior, talismanic midfielder Yohan Cabaye returned to France with PSG and a campaign that hinted at European qualification ended in a tenth placed finish. In fact, Newcastle never recovered from their playmaker’s mid-season exit.
In 2013, meanwhile, Demba Ba’s £7 million Chelsea switch robbed Newcastle of their most consistent centre-forward, per The Telegraph.
If recent history tells us anything, it’s that Newcastle are not a club likely to learn from their many mistakes. Fortunately, Benitez seems a little more aware of how not to throw away a season.