Rafa Benitez has his fair share of detractors but there is little doubting that the former Valencia, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Chelsea and Inter Milan manager is one of the biggest names in world coaching.
And his appointment at Newcastle United in the spring of 2016 looked set to give the Magpies access to players they would have had no chance of attracting with the likes of Steve McClaren and Alan Pardew on the touchline.
Like Dennis Praet, for example. The Chronicle reported in August that Sampdoria’s Belgian international midfielder was enticed by the prospect of making a move to Newcastle in the summer and would have rejected Everton due to the chance to work with the Champions League-winning manager.
But just a few months later, it appears Praet has slipped through Newcastle’s grasp, which will only add to Benitez’s frustrations.
The Chronicle state that Praet is set to swap Sampdoria for Serie A champions Juventus for a fee of around £23 million. And the report adds that Benitez has been denied the chance to break Newcastle’s transfer record by the restrictive transfer policy put in place by owner Mike Ashley.
The first fortnight of the January window has been a shambles once again for Newcastle, who do not appear close to signing a single player despite the obvious deficiencies in a limited squad.
The Chronicle even states that Benitez has not been informed how much he has to spend this month, and will therefore be forced to rely on short-term loans. But even the potential signings of David Luiz, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Ings were scuppered as the club would not pay their wages, Sky Sports’ Transfer Talk podcast explained.
At this stage, it is a credit to Benitez that he remains at St James’ Park.