Selling stars would crush any optimism
ANY BID FOR CAPTAIN WOULD SHOW HOW MUCH AMBITION UNITED HAVE NOW
NOW we’ll see the cut of the man. We’ll get concrete evidence of exactly where Mike Ashley stands these days.
Does he want to keep Rafa Benitez with a passion? Has he learned a solitary single thing? Or are we doomed to an accountant’s view of football life?
Will Ashley keep the likes of Jamaal Lascelles despite the temptation of big money and buy Rafa the decent striker he craves? Will he sell United’s prize assets and bring in a £5m shirt filler up top? Or will he cash in on one to buy for another position at just under the same price? Sacrifice one for the other if you like.
As I say we’re about to find out where Newcastle United are heading when the road to redemption is clearly signposted.
Dubravka in, Ki in, Kennedy in, was a grand start but will not provide the long term answer unless players like Lascelles stays and a quality front man comes.
That’s what Rafa wants, what the fans want, and what the dressingroom wants. But does the owner? I’ve said all along that selling Aleksandar Mitrovic, Mikel Merino and, aye, even Matt Ritchie if a better quality winger comes in to join Kenedy is acceptable, but not the sale of Lascelles, a majestic athlete and great leader of men. That would send out such a negative message that a wet blanket would be thrown over the whole of Tyneside. West Ham, Everton and Chelsea have all been reported as having interest in the Magpies’ skipper, although Benitez is keen to keep hold of his captain. Ashley, we know, loves a profit. He adores selling big and buying small. Remember £35m for Andy Carroll, £30m for Moussa Sissoko, £25m for Georginio Wijnaldum, £20m for Yohan Cabaye and so on. Yet not one of them was missed as much as Lascelles would be. Carroll is ridiculously injury prone and Sissoko’s talent not half as big as his ego while Wijnaldum and Cabaye wanted out big time. Lascelles by all accounts isn’t looking for a parachute and, anyway, even if he was surely West Ham would not be his preferred destination.
United’s official word that “Lascelles is not for sale” will be tested as never before with others. So much hangs on its authenticity.
You get the impression that Lascelles is happy to be an adopted Geordie, the leader of a passion that is all consuming. Just as Rafa is.
They fit up here and if United are to become what we all desire with every sinew then both must stay long term.
They are the future of the Mags. Ashley the holder of the key.
While Newcastle have spent all of £4m this summer their rivals have been splashing the cash. Not only West Ham, apart from chasing Lascelles, but the likes of Premier League newcomers Fulham.
This week the Cottagers pulled off the spectacular signing of Nice midfielder Jean-Michael Seri for a fee of £18m, which is more than United have paid in their history. They beat the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund to get their man who Barcelona came close to signing last summer. Can you see Ashley sanctioning that sort of statement? Yet it’s very easy to get excited about the potential of Newcastle under Rafa. They stand on the cusp of a real breakthrough. So much groundwork has been done with the squad. Now is the time to put in the first floor, not let the building go to ruin. Benitez has one year left to serve on his deal. He’ll serve that right enough but then what? The two decisions at centre back and centre forward will go an awful long way to determining what happens. We have until August 9 to reject all Lascelles suitors and buy a goalscorer.
So much groundwork has been done with the squad. Now is the time to put in the first floor, not let the building go to ruin John Gibson
United captain Jamaal Lascelles and inset below, Magpies owner Mike Ashley