The takeover: who has a future at the club?
With Mike Ashley on the brink of selling our club to the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, a lot of players will be playing for their futures if we can get this season resumed but if we can't, some of them will likely have played their final game for us. So let's take a look at our squad and see who's futures could be affected by the takeover.
Starting with the goalkeepers, Karl Darlow and Rob Elliot are coming to the end of their contracts and I don't think a new manager would offer either of them a new deal. Having sign an extension in October, Martin Dubravka should remain at the club but whoever the new manager is will probably look at signing an experienced back-up whilst Jake Turner could be promoted to number three if Freddie Woodman, who's spent the season on loan at Swansea City, decides he wants to leave for more game time. Elliot was always likely to leave regardless but hopefully signs a short-term deal at a Championship club (or even a lower Premier League club) that he can drive down to training to without having to leave his home on the coast. Darlow's destination is also likely to be a lower end Premier League or higher end Championship club, most likely the latter as he will be looking for regular game time.
Despite having his best season to date for us, Javier Manquillo is likely to leave upon expiry of his contract and has been linked with Fenerbahçe this week whilst West Ham United are also supposedly interested in the Spaniard. I feel that DeAndre Yedlin or Emil Krafth could well follow him out the door. Yedlin could be back-up to a new and more defensive minded right-back but is heading into the final year of his contract whilst Krafth has really struggled this season so the new manager could decide to cash in on the Sweden international a year after his arrival from Amiens. If we do sign Jetro Willems permanently and also have Paul Dummett as an option at left-back, we may decide to have three full-backs on the left hand side rather than the right hand side and if Mauricio Pochettino is appointed, he could decide to buy Danny Rose, having worked with him for five years at Tottenham Hotspur. The Argentine, however, may chose to sign an alternative to Willems or sell Paul Dummett and sign someone can who also play right-back but if Rafael Benítez returned, he may take up the option to sign Willems and pass up on Danny Rose for full-back who can play either side whilst letting Manquillo go and selling Krafth.
I do hate to say it with our centre-back depth but given that even with Paul Dummett moving to left-back in a 4-2-3-1 formation rather than being a centre-back in a 5-4-1/3-4-3 formation, that would leave us with five centre-backs and with the twenty-five senior player limits for Premier League squads, we may need to let a centre-back go. If Rafa was to return, I think Ciaran Clark would be the most likely given that he was sixth choice in the second half of the 2018-19 season and having been signed ahead of the 2016-17 Championship campaign, has one more year left after this season. Florian Lejeune is another one who could easily leave given his injury record and this season has probably been his worst at the club (despite his late two goal show to get us a crazy 2-2 draw at Everton) but maybe that's down to not having Rafa's management and coaching. Fabian Schär's contract runs out next summer and although he hasn't quite hit the heights of last season, he should be offered a new deal in my opinion, Jamaal Lascelles is still only twenty-six and will hopefully remain club captain so I think he'll stay whilst Federico Fernandez recently took up the option to sign for an extra year so will likely be here for that year then leave next summer regardless of our new manager.
Had Jonjo Shelvey not signed a two year extension just before fellow ex Swansea City player Fernandez, he could well be on the move this summer but reports have returned about Isaac Hayden being unsettled. Despite his performances this season, especially since his red card at Leicester City, we need to sell him if the reports are true and find a replacement with his contract running out next summer. Another midfielder who may may well need replacing is Nabil Bentaleb, who has struggled but a new manager could decide to take up our option to buy him and having played much better in the FA Cup win at West Bromwich Albion, he could be better in the 4-2-3-1 formation but he appears to be only fourth choice at the minute. Whoever becomes our new manager should also look to give Matthew Longstaff the new contract that everyone's been screaming out for whilst his brother could also do with an extension if it helps to settle him given that he hasn't hit the heights of last season but that could down to not having a top manager coaching him rather than links to Manchester United last summer. Whilst one or two midfielders may not have so much game time, the Longstaff brothers and Bentaleb (or his replacement) could probably do a job in the number ten role if Miguel Almirón gets injured, he'd be very likely to stay regardless of a takeover but can still improve, especially with a new manager and by playing in the number ten role, which is his best position in my opinion.
If Mike Ashley wasn't about to sell the club, there'd be worries that Allan Saint-Maximin would be out the door this summer or next summer but you can probably expect him to stay for the long term and not be rushed back from injuries, especially if Mauricio Pochettino is made manager but I feel that Rafa would also be happy to start him week in week out. Very much like Jonjo Shelvey, Matt Ritchie would probably be out the door if he hadn't also signed a two year extension as he turns thirty-one in September, maybe next season will still be his last though but I do feel he is another one who could play in the number ten role if Almirón gets injured. I'm still unsure whether I would take up the option to buy Valentino Lazaro for around £20,000,000 or if he'll sign, he struggled at right wing-back but may not have played there if DeAndre Yedlin hadn't struggled after his latest injury, his best role is on the wing and he showed it against West Bromwich Albion and I'm not just talking about his goal. I suppose if we can resume the season, this will depend on his performances. As for Christian Atsu, we need to sell him and I'd have certainly sold him even without a takeover so for me, we need at least two wingers, which could include Lazaro.
As for the front line, we need three new strikers in my opinion. It was silly for us to make Joelinton our £40,000,000 number nine despite his lack of goals in Germany and the fact he played out wide, when he played there against Burnley, I thought he looked better so a new manager could look to put him on the wing but may want to get rid of him, especially if it's Rafa. Andy Carroll has helped us out when he has been fit, getting assists for Jonjo Shelvey's goals against Sheffield United and Southampton in the space of four days, Miguel Almirón's first Magpies goal to give us a late 1-0 over Crystal Palace and Fabian Schär's strike against Everton a week later. However, I wouldn't give him a year's extension given that he's had injury problems and hasn't scored once for us but I do hope that if we can resume the season, he can get at least one goal. Dwight Gayle had already proven that he was one of those strikers that looks world class in the Championship but can't cut it in the Premier League, especially with his missed chances in the losses at Burnley and Manchester United in December but I feel his wages could put off Championship clubs (hence why West Bromwich Albion weren't willing to buy him after failing to win promotion last season despite scoring twenty-four goals for them) so we just have to wait for him to become a free agent next summer. As for Yoshinori Muto, he would've probably been heading out the door without a takeover so would definitely expect him to leave.
Personally, I'd like to see Danny Ings and Callum Wilson come through the door as realistic targets, maybe Timo Werner could be our first statement of intent (like Robinho was for Manchester City) with his £50,000,000 release clause but I think he'd want Champions League football, then again you never know given that were supposedly willing to spent £40,000,000 on Joelinton. After injuries ruined his Liverpool career, Ings has recaptured his form during his time at Southampton and we need to take things step by step so he'd be a good start, Celtic's Odsonne Édouard would also be worth bringing in with the twenty-two year old having netted twenty-one goals in twenty-seven league games this season, I would rather have Ings as the main man out of the two given that he's Premier League proven. Another striker with Premier League experience that we could also look to sign would be Salomón Rondón but I feel that would only happen if Benítez was to return, like Ings, I feel that he would be a good start to the project of getting our club back to competing in Europe regularly. Edinson Cavani has also been linked given that his PSG contract is coming to an end but I wouldn't want someone who'd just be here for a final pay day, he would likely be here for just one or two years but he could also be the first signing that signals the new owners' ambitions and with a good manager, he might not just come for a final pay day, hence why we should bring in the new manager once the season ends.
I think it goes without saying that Jack Colback and Jamie Sterry can (and will) leave when their contracts expire soon whilst Henri Saivet, Achraf Lazaar, Jacob Murphy and Rolando Aarons will also need to be moved on. If these lads weren't being considered for selection this season, what chance do they have after a takeover?
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