Our resident Spanish speaking writer Norman Riley has been getting the lowdown on our impressive signing Javier Manquillo from those that know him best….

The arrival of our Spanish full-back Javier Manquillo Gaitán was, if social media is anything to go by, greeted with very little enthusiasm.

Given that he’d played 20 times in the SAFC team relegated last season it’s not hard to see why perhaps some people questioned the signing. Combine that with the online criticism levelled at him from Sunderland fans (e.g. ‘Will they give us £10 million for Billy Jones’?) and his lack of game time at both Liverpool and Atlético de Madrid then I guess it would’ve been easy to fall in to the trap of writing him off before he’d even kicked a ball for NUFC.

However, my initial thoughts were that this is a lad who had come through the famous Atlético Cantera (youth system), who’d been given a debut as a teenager by Simeone, who’d been signed for Marseille by Bielsa and who’d played 42 times for them under the guidance of Michel. Benitez obviously saw something that convinced him to part with £4.5 million of his limited transfer funds.

His first 3 appearances have certainly suggested that he has ability and TF decided it might be worth getting the lowdown on him from someone who knows him. Miguel Molina not only played in the same side as him during his days in the Atlético youth system but he is now a youth coach with the Spanish giants in the very cantera from which Miguel came. TF put the questions to Miguel and you’ll find those along with his answers below.

TF: What would you say were Manquillo’s main strengths as a young footballer?

MM: Ever since I’ve known him Javier has stood out because of his humility, desire to give his all and his commitment. Tactically he’s very intelligent and he can easily adapt to different systems of play. He’s difficult to beat and he offers a lot getting forward especially with the physical prowess he now has. He’s quick and can be very effective when transitioning rapidly from defence to attack, and he loves exploiting the spaces that open-up. Having said all that I believe what makes him stand out has always been his character and competitive nature.

TF: Has he always played as a full-back?

MM: He’s always played as a right back but whilst at Marseille he also played on the left for a few games.

TF: Did Simeone rate him?

MM: From my position I don’t know whether or not Simeone rated him. What I do know is that he was there at a time when Juanfran was in great form and this made it difficult for him to break through to the first team.

TF: Do you think that his loan spell at Liverpool during the 2014/15 season, when he was still very young, was a good or bad experience in terms of his development?

MM: I think it was a positive experience for him. The opportunity to be at a club like Liverpool at such a young age would have helped him improve in every aspect despite the difficulties. Moreover, the situation in Atlético obliged him to look for alternative opportunities to continue his development. The Premier League and Liverpool meant that he moved out of his comfort zone which is a fundamental part of a footballer’s apprenticeship. He had the courage to do it and I’m certain it’s an experience he doesn’t regret.


TF: He played regularly under Michel (ex-Real Madrid player and former Sevilla, Olympiakos and Marseille manager currently in charge at Málaga). Do you think his time there was a success?

MM: I imagine the opportunity of being in the starting 11 and the responsibility that comes with being Marseille’s right back was beneficial. I think that his experience at Liverpool accelerated his ability to adapt to Ligue 1, and I’m sure this transition was managed sensibly by Michel. His confidence levels whilst he was there allowed him to display his strengths as a footballer and to prove that he has the potential to play right back at big clubs.

TF: What do you think he can offer NUFC?

MM: With regards to the footballing side of things I think that Manquillo can be an interesting option for Newcastle, defensively he’s solid in every facet, he gets back easily, he’s positionally well-balanced, good in the air…Offensively he’s a player with a great ability to overlap, he gets to the by-line really well, he assists with play in the outside channels, he understands very well when to make himself available and he’s a good option in attacking set-pieces. He’s a fast player and he’s effective in situations where there’s space to run in to.

TF: Are there any aspects of his game that he can improve? Will he react positively to Benitez’s methods and learn from him?

MM: I am certain that he’ll learn from Rafa’s methods. The structure that Benítez normally imposes on his teams is one that he can adapt to very well, down to both his individual characteristics and the opportunities given to him. On the tactical side we are all aware that Rafa and his technical staff are world class and I’m therefore sure that Javier will make the most of this opportunity to push to the limit his development as a footballer. We can all grow and improve in every aspect of our lives, we live in a constant state of learning and Javier is conscious of this. In this sense, Rafa and his team will know how to detect those aspects of his game that could be improved and they will focus their attention on them alongside him. From there they’ll start the methodological process of making him the best he can be. Without doubt we will see a wider variety of performances from Manquillo this season.

I’m a big follower of the methodologies of Rafa and his technical team and I have no doubt that they’ll get the best out of Manquillo. I believe the synergy that’ll be generated between the player and the coaching staff will be very positive for Newcastle. Equally, the belief that Rafa shows in him will ensure that Manquillo will continue to develop.

TF: What do you make of Newcastle as a club? What’s its reputation in Spain?

MM: It’s a club with a great history. The make-up of the Premier League is different to that of La Liga in that here the big clubs (Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Atlético….) operate at a completely different socio-economic level to the rest….In the Premier League it’s different, the clubs are in an variety of different conditions and I believe that Newcastle, since promotion, is entering an era of change. These next few years will mark Newcastle’s future and doing things right in every aspect feels vital to it. Take a chance on the future, become a model for youth development, have a solid sporting set-up, invest now whilst keeping an eye on the future, maintain economic stability, grow at the research level…I believe these are the objectives that ought to govern the direction of the Club if it wants to return to and take its place amongst the best.

Huge thanks to Miguel Molina @Miguel_Molina10 and Juanjo Rodriguez @JUANJOKINTY for giving their time to us.

Norman Riley @likethegoat

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