Benitez targets extra firepower for Toon attack
BOSS AIMS TO ADD ‘TWO OR THREE’ PLAYERS
NUFC Writer RAFA Benitez is targeting “two or three” offensive players during the final few weeks of the transfer window – and he admits recruiting a striker remains a priority for Newcastle United.
The Magpies missed out on top target Alassane Plea after the 25-year-old Frenchman joined Borussia Monchengladbach from Nice for £22m yesterday, two weeks after United saw a £20m bid rejected by the Ligue 1 outfit.
West Bromwich Albion forward Salomon Rondon, who has a £16.5m release clause in his contract, remains on United’s radar – but the Magpies are yet to agree a deal for the Baggies striker and Newcastle have other back-up options in mind.
There is still a chance Benitez could look to bring more than one forward through the door, though acquiring even one is proving tricky enough at the moment.
Kenedy did become United’s third signing of the summer earlier this week after re-joining from Chelsea on a season-long loan deal, with the winger having been a priority target since before the window even began.
The Brazilian followed Ki Sungyueng, who arrived from Swansea City on a free transfer at the beginning of the month, and Martin Dubravka – who completed a £4m permanent move from Sparta Prague after the goalkeeper’s successful loan spell on Tyneside.
But Benitez is still keen for at least another four additions to arrive – with a striker, a winger and an attacking-midfielder on his wanted list, along with cover at right-back and in defence.
Former Newcastle winger Andros Townsend remains on United’s radar, though the Crystal Palace wideman is only likely to sign if Matt Ritchie joins Stoke City, but Benitez has a host of other targets in mind, too.
“There are some positions we have to improve, not just a striker,” Benitez replied when asked if signing a forward was still a priority following the 1892 Foundation Cup at the club’s Academy. “We have [to sign] two or three more offensive players, and also we need a back-up in defence, or to improve the defence a little bit.”
Interestingly, although Benitez is pleased with the three signings Newcastle have made so far, he believes United are merely “in the starting position again” given that Kenedy and Dubravka were already on Tyneside last term, while Ki has arrived as a like-forlike replacement for Mikel Merino, who has joined Real Sociedad for £10m.
Now he wants to see progress being made to improve not only the first XI, but his squad as a whole, given that he has had to call up four players from the Under23s to bolster the numbers out in the Republic of Ireland for the Magpies’ week-long training camp.
“We have plenty of work [still to do]. The point is not how many [signings] we have done,” Benitez added.
“We have to improve the team, and that means improve the squad. At the moment, we have the same players, more or less, that we had before. We are in the starting position again.”
Rafa Benitez with Kenedy at United’s Irish training base