I read on one of those transfer market websites that Joelinton’s current transfer value is £27m. That’s a lot of money but it’s not as much as the £40m that has been claimed Newcastle United paid for him last summer. Having lost £13m in value in seven months is something of a worry and I don’t think anyone would deny that.

With one PL goal to his credit at the time of writing – a well taken finish at Tottenham last August, it is no accident that the Brazilian has come under scrutiny. Sources from within United who have briefed the local press claim they regard Joelinton as a long term signing: A kind of jam tomorrow-kind of thing. The implication here is that United retain faith in a player who arrived on Barrack Road to be immediately handed the No.9 shirt and played almost exclusively in the centre-forward role.

And that is the first place to start.

Joelinton was the alternative to Rondon.  Ashley is famously resistant to providing contracts to older players not least of which because they drain value and let’s be honest on his watch a number of players who might be described as seasoned professionals on big wages, produced very little and exited stage left gratis with St James’ Park providing a nice little final salary top up in the sunset of their careers – Marc Viduka, Geremi, Alan Smith, Joey Barton, Sol Campbell coming in Ashley’s time though the payroll for Michael Owen, Damian Duff and one or two others will have made for grim reading set aside the fees received for them. In many regards, avoiding players who are beyond their peak because they have little sell on value is completely understandable. A club that has provided a well remunerated retirement home for past-it footballers is now residing in League 1 and much to the amusement of most of you reading this gubbins. On the flipside of course older players like Keegan, McDermott, Sheedy, Venison, Bracewell and Kilcline have played transformational roles at the lcub over its modern history. I guess you have to do your research and be pragmatic. 

We can discuss the value of letting Rondon go but that’s a separate debate. The fact is United decided to replace him with a younger model and Joelinton was their pick. He was signed as the number on his back suggests, to play as a central striker as a direct replacement for Rondon, who the club declined to offer a contract.

So, on what basis was that decision made?

To be honest it is completely baffling.

Numerous reports demonstrate Joelinton has never been a goal-scoring centre-forward – he has previously operated down the left of an attacking three and he was never prolific for Hoffenheim.

It is fair to ask the question of those who put the deal together …. why have they signed such a high-cost player to play in a position that isn’t his and have a burden of scoring goals placed upon him that he has never demonstrated he has the ability of carrying?

It is a matter of recorded fact that Rafa Benitez advised strongly against the Joelinton signing and indeed under the terms of his contract would not sign it off.

Yet against Joelinton’s background and career to date … the club … against the counsel of Rafa Benitez … a manager who has worked at the highest level … pressed on and made the signing. 

We are told the Joelinton signing might have been made in January 2019 so it is reported the signing was presented to Steve Bruce as a fait-accompli. We are variously told Bruce has the final say on transfers and that he approved this signing. Bruce has confirmed that himself.

Therefore we have primary responsibility for the Joelinton signing resting in the hands of Lee Charnley and Steve Nickson, though Bruce cannot be exonerated either.

I’ll confess to knowing little of Nickson. His job title of Head of Recruitment at Newcastle United is a grand one but his experience operating at that level having undertaken previous roles with the U-21s and with Blackburn’s Academy making him a curious choice to back in a game of player judgement with Benitez. To be fair to Nickson he is attributed with the Perez signing and a return of £30m on a player signed for £2m is going to impress Mike Ashley.

But to move from relatively small deals with the U-21s to being backed in £40m purchases against the advice of a man of Benitez’s standing appears straightforwardly weird. And that’s even supposing Joelinton was a time served, like for like Rondon replacement – he clearly isn’t, never was and is unlikely to ever will be. Even the most cursory of research demonstrates that Joelinton has spent his career to date playing as the second man in a twin strike force and down the left-side. He has never played centre-forward … yet here he is being deployed in that role … and apparently being brought in to perform that role. Bruce has stated the club expected Joelinton to have notched about 10-12 goals so far this season – but why? There’s nothing at all in his career to suggest that was ever going to happen. 

The other man with his hands all over the Joelinton transfer is Lee Charnley, erstwhile branch manager of Sports Direct (Barrack Road branch). Now forgive me if you think I’m being harsh but to entrust Charnley with a deal the size of Joelinton seems foolhardy to the point of reckless.

Let’s be honest, I find it difficult to see a decision Charnley has made at Newcastle United that hasn’t been an unmitigated disaster.

Charnley was the prime mover behind the decision to appoint Steve McClaren as manager. That was exacerbated by his decision to defer appointing any other candidate and place John Carver as caretaker manager following Pardew making good his escape to Crystal Palace. The Carver decision almost resulted in a relegation which was simply put on ice for a season pending the appointment of McClaren, then followed by a dithering in sacking him which confirmed demotion in 2016.

Lee Charnley is not a man known for the wisdom in his decision-making. Yet there he is right in the middle of a £40m transfer to sign a player to play the centre-forward role he has never performed previously.

Am I missing something here?

And of course there is the fee paid to Hoffenheim. Why £40m? He isn’t a player to play in the position we need covered following the decision to bin Rondon and so far as I can recall there was no fierce competition for him? Benitez valued him at around the £20m but there goes notoriously parsimonious Newcastle United lashing twice that amount on him. Fans of German football known to this fanzine are similarly baffled by the £40m shelled out for him. They regard his value as less than half that on the basis of his achievements in the Bundesliga. 

Not that Steve Bruce should be excused of course. Bruce we are assured (by him) signed off the deal. He must have done that if he was to achieve any understanding of how he would play within his team, surely? Bruce has used him almost exclusively as a lone centre-forward. But I’m starting to have my doubts if Bruce knew much about him before he agreed to the player in-coming when he says stuff like this:

‘I’m sure, with the homework they put in, they were aware that (his goalscoring) needs to improve. I’m sure everyone looks at records before you write a big cheque. We were hoping he could get 10 to 12 goals this season.’

Those words don’t strike me as a man who is cognisant of the scouting reports, who has conducted his own research and assessments and examined the detail. So, what was in Bruce’s decision-making to sign the transfer off as he claims he did?

But primarily, the deal has had the enthusiasm behind it of Lee Charnley and Steve Nickson. Ashley will have been attracted by stats and rationale demonstrating potential sell-on value and all of that.

Right now, that looks a completely forlorn hope.

The only solution I can see is for Bruce to completely change his tactical approach and formation to deploy Joelinton as a left-sided striker …. though that begs the question … who is the centre-forward? ASM? Gayle? Muto? Carroll? None of those options seem convincing let’s be honest.

So, who will carry the can?

I am pretty certain that elsewhere in the Ashley business empire if one or two of his executives made as catastrophic a decision to cost him #40m (not to mention more millions in wages) they would be handed their arse and pointed to the door.

Right now, the Joelinton transfer looks a disaster and it’s not difficult to apportion responsibility and in descending order of culpability it is:

  1. Lee Charnley
  2. Steve Nickson
  3. Steve Bruce.

Let’s see how Ashley responds.

Keep On, Keepin’ On ….

Michael Martin