If, after beating Manchester City at home for the first time in fourteen years, you had thought you’d gone through the looking glass, the news that we’ve not only just signed Miguel Almirón from Atlanta United but, in doing so, have smashed our transfer record is certainly not going to help you snap out of it.

That’s right. Newcastle United have bought a player – not from a loan deal but outright – for a record (estimated) £21million, ending our transfer record of £16million for Michael Owen in 2005 – before Mike Ashley bought the club. Almirón, 24, has been on Rafa’s radar for a while now; we were linked to him back in November, but it’s taken until the penultimate day of the transfer window to secure this young midfielder. Was Mike Ashley visited by three ghosts in the night? Could this represent a last-minute change of heart from the top?

The significance of this signing cannot be overstated. In the past twelve years of supporting Newcastle United, fans have been starved of heavy investment into new players, resulting in two relegations and much heartache. For supporters, this signing represents much more than investment into our squad, – it signals a belief (finally!) in Rafa Benitez, and the potential he sees in the club. It’s no surprise that the first thing people do after we play a team like Manchester City is to look at the combined cost of our side (circa £40million, before today) and compare it to our opponents (for reference, City signed Riyad Mahrez alone for £60million in Summer 2018). Even if this is a begrudging concession from Mike Ashley to Rafa Benitez, investment like this in a young player signals to the fans, and the League, that we are here to fight.

Whilst he’s very careful not to say it outright, Rafa has made it quite clear that without investment he would seriously consider leaving when his contract is up at the end of this season.  With hope (and perhaps another couple of loans, which we seem to be looking to also finalise last minute) we might see him stay on Tyneside for a little while longer. The optimist in me won’t let this idea go.

Do I think this is a turning point for investment in our club? No, not really, especially not if (as is rumoured online) we took a loan to secure Almirón. I think this signing was borne of desperation – from the fans, from the manager, and likely from the team. I can’t imagine it’s a laugh a minute playing in front of angry fans week on week, even if you know the anger isn’t directed at you. After so long with Ashley at the helm I can’t believe that one January transfer window has changed his outlook on the club, I just can’t. So no, I don’t think it represents a sea change – even though I’d love to see Rafa walking out of a meeting in July with a wad of cash and freedom to sign who he wants – but it is something. And we needed something.

 

Charlotte Robson

@charlottehope