Newcastle have swallowed their pride to allow Benitez to rebuild

After years of proudly chasing Europe's next-big-things, Newcastle United and Rafa Benitez have returned to England and found success in the transfer market.

Newcastle have swallowed their pride to allow Benitez to rebuild

When Graham Carr's cheaply assembled Newcastle United team stunned the Premier League and finished fifth, pushing for Champions League qualification until the final day of the 2011-12 season, the veteran scout was quickly highlighted as the mastermind behind the club's success.

Alan Pardew was the manager - or head coach - but the players were recruited by Carr, signed mainly from France. Both men were given eight-year contracts.

Five years later, while Pardew is long gone, Carr remains on the books at Newcastle. However, like the 55-year-old manager, his reputation is in tatters. Rafa Benitez reigns supreme on Tyneside now.

Pride comes before a fall

Yohan Cabaye's June 2011 arrival was seen as a perfect deal by the Newcastle board and, after that wonderful, unexpected European qualification, Carr set about chasing more. Romain Amalfitano, Vurnon Anita, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Yoan Gouffran, Massadio Haidara, Siem de Jong, Remy Cabella, Emmanuel Riviere, Daryl Janmaat, Florian Thauvin, Henri Saivet and more all failed to make an impact.

Handy profits were turned on Mathieu Debuchy, Georginio Wijnaldum and Moussa Sissoko, but the cost of churning through potential gems was great; results slumped.

Even after a battle against the drop in 2014-15, Newcastle continued to take risks. Too proud to turn to established British stars - Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend were signed later - the Magpies invested heavily in more players who did not know the league, determined to deliver success the hard way.

Carr was appointed to the board at the beginning of the next campaign and when Newcastle were finally relegated - his defenders too error-prone, his forwards too wasteful - the penny dropped at St James' Park. Benitez, two months into a three-year contract, was willing to stick around as long as he was given full control. The scout has scarcely been seen since.

Getting out of the darkness

And the difference in Newcastle's approach to the transfer market under the Spanish manager was instantly striking.

In the summer of 2016, Benitez complemented the usual influx of European talent with Premier League experience. Gabriel Obertan, in 2011, had been the last player bought for a fee from the English top flight prior to the signings of Shelvey and Townsend. Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle arrived early and hit the ground running.

However, Isaac Hayden and Christian Atsu were perhaps more intriguing transfers. Both players were at traditional top-four clubs - Arsenal and Chelsea, respectively - and both saw little chance of breaking into the first team. Hayden immediately commanded a starting spot at St James' Park, while Atsu impressed enough after a rare loan switch to earn a permanent move.

This, for Benitez, was the new perfect deal. The super-rich, so keen to enjoy immediate success, can cast off excellent players at an alarming rate. Hayden, in particular, has the potential to play for England.

And so, like Carr, Benitez wants to repeat the trick. Where Newcastle once prided themselves on discovering next-big-things on foreign shores, they are now perusing domestic cast-offs.

A summer of speculation

From Arsenal, Benitez has been linked with Calum Chambers and Kieran Gibbs. At Chelsea, it is Nathan Ake, Baba Rahman, Tammy Abraham and Michy Batshuayi. Manchester City's Willy Caballero, Bacary Sagna, Eliaquim Mangala, Fernando, Fabian Delph, Yaya Toure and Kelechi Iheanacho have all been touted as alleged targets, too.

And for a side like Newcastle, who last played back-to-back European campaigns 10 years ago, this is the right way to go.

Chambers and Gibbs, like their former team-mate Hayden, would both improve Benitez's squad. Abraham, even if only on loan, would offer a greater goal threat than Aleksandar Mitrovic or Daryl Murphy.

The likes of Ryan Bertrand, Michael Keane and Danny Drinkwater have left elite sides to become established Premier League stars and England internationals elsewhere. Until Newcastle are competing with the Arsenals, Liverpools and Tottenham Hotspurs of this world, they cannot afford to turn their nose up at players such as these.


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