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Title-winner among Rafa Benitez’s first Newcastle XI now, just 2 remain

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Eddie Howe will soon be in full rebuild mode as he seeks to strengthen his squad, featuring two who started in Rafa Benitez’s first Newcastle United side – so where are the rest now?

Benitez took over the St James’ Park helm after Mike Ashley fired Steve McClaren in March 2016. But the Spaniard could not help the Toon avoid relegation from the Premier League that season, sparking the start of the changing of the guard in the Tyneside dressing room.

Nine players secured permanent transfers away from St James’ during the summer market of 2016. A further 11 left on loan, but none remain at United today – including Ivan Toney, now with Brentford, who joined Shrewsbury before Scunthorpe, Wigan and Peterborough.

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Toney had joined the Magpies ahead of the 2015/16 term from Northampton. But he only made four appearances for 41 minutes in all competitions. The striker also did not play at all under Benitez, so where are his first Newcastle side that lost 1-0 at Leicester City now?

Rob Elliot (GK): Benitez started now Watford ace in first Newcastle side vs Leicester

Benitez started Rob Elliot in goal for his debut Premier League match as Newcastle boss at Leicester on March 14, 2016. The King Power Stadium affair was one of the goalkeeper’s 21 appearances that season. But a knee injury would keep him to just two under Benitez.

Elliot would prove unable to prevent Shinji Okazaki scoring the only goal of the game in the 25th-minute. The Japan striker fired home with an overhead kick from Jamie Vardy’s assist.

Newcastle would retain Elliot’s services until 2020 when released at the end of his contract after nine years on Tyneside. Watford later signed the shot-stopper in January 2021 with a short-term deal, before offering the 36-year-old a two-year extension running until 2023.

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Daryl Janmaat (RB): Now ADO Den Haag star among first to leave Newcastle in 2016

Daryl Janmaat was among the nine to secure permanent transfers away from Newcastle in the summer of 2016. The Dutchman got a £7.5m switch to Watford, where he stayed until October 2020. He left after a mutual agreement with the Hornets to end his contract early.

The right-back who started in Benitez’s first Newcastle side is now in the Dutch second-tier playing for ADO Den Haag. The Eerste Divisie side gave Janmaat his return after two months as a free agent in January 2021, and is under contract at the Cars Jeans Stadion until 2023.

Janmaat enjoyed 77 appearances with Newcastle in all competitions during his two years at St James’. He would make 85 with Watford, including playing four against the Magpies.

Steven Taylor (CB): Defender in Benitez’s first Newcastle side now retired since 2021

Steven Taylor enjoyed a 12 year first-team career at Newcastle after the academy product broke into the first-team in 2004. He would leave St James’ following the club’s relegation to the Championship after failing to agree new terms before the defender’s deal expired.

The centre-half amassed 268 appearances with the Toon before joining Portland Timbers in a free transfer. Taylor spent just one season in Major League Soccer before returning to England with Ipswich, joining Peterborough and then testing himself in Australia and India.

Taylor called time on his career in September 2021 at the age of 35. He never made any appearances for the England senior side, despite making the bench in 2007 and in 2013.

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Jamaal Lascelles (CB): Benitez started now captain in first Newcastle side vs Leicester

Jamaal Lascelles is one of the two who started in Benitez’s first Newcastle side who are still at St James’ now. The defender is also captain under Howe, but The Sun report Lascelles is among 10 first-team players the boss is open to selling having slumped into third-choice.

United signed Lascelles in the summer of 2014 in a £7m double deal with Karl Darlow from Nottingham Forest. Both returned to the City Ground on loan during the 2014/15 season.

Jack Colback (LB): Benitez fielded now Nottingham Forest star in makeshift role

Benitez felt forced to field Jack Colback in a makeshift left-back role for his debut match as Newcastle boss against Leicester. It was the first time that term that the midfielder played in the position, and featured there again in the following fixture at home to Sunderland.

Colback had joined the Toon after leaving the Black Cats at the end of his contract in 2014. His Magpies career would last until August 2020 when allowed to join Nottingham Forest in a permanent transfer following two successive loan spells with the Championship outfit.

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Vurnon Anita (CDM): Former Magpies anchor now plying his trade at RKC Waalwijk

Former Newcastle anchor Vurnon Anita – who started in Benitez’s first side – is now plying his trade in the Dutch top-flight at RKC Waalwijk. The eight-cap Curacao midfielder moved to the Eredivisie outfit in August 2020 from CSKA-Sofia, a year after leaving Leeds United.

Leeds signed Anita from Newcastle in 2017 following the Toon’s promotion back into the Premier League. He had spent five years at St James’ for 155 appearances – the most with one club he had. But he only made 22 for the Whites before they terminated his contract.

Jonjo Shelvey (CDM): Newcastle star still a regular at St James’ for now

Jonjo Shelvey is the second player Benitez started in his first Newcastle side still at the club now with Lascelles. The midfielder moved to United from Swansea City for £12m two months prior to Ashley sacking McClaren and appointing the Spaniard as the new Magpies coach.

Shelvey holds a key role at St James’ today with Howe at the helm, and has regularly worn the captain’s armband this year in line with Lascelles slipping down the pecking order. Yet the 30-year-old could fear for his starting place next term with his contract ending in 2023.

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Ayoze Perez (RM): Leicester City activated release clause to prise Spaniard from St James’

Ayoze Perez started in Benitez’s first Newcastle side at Leicester in March 2016 and would later make a permanent move to play at the King Power in July 2019. The Foxes triggered a £30m release clause to prise the Spaniard away from St James’ following 195 appearances.

But a move to the East Midlands has not been an ideal switch. The Daily Mail now report the Foxes will listen to offers for Perez this summer after falling to the fringes. Chronicle Live also noted this January that Perez was even open to potentially re-joining Newcastle.

Georginio Wijnaldum (CAM): Midfielder left for Liverpool, not at Paris Saint-Germain

Georginio Wijnaldum jumped ship in July 2016 and joined Liverpool for £25m following the Magpies’ relegation. The Dutchman had only made a move to Tyneside the previous year from PSV Eindhoven for £14.5m, making 40 appearances during his short Tyneside stay.

The midfielder would enjoy a far longer career at Anfield, featuring 237 appearances in all competitions. He also helped the Reds win the Champions League in 2018/19 and Premier League in 2019/20. Wijnaldum is yet to feature for a club more often than with Liverpool.

He left Merseyside in the summer of 2021, though, after opting against signing a new deal with the Anfield natives. Instead, Wijnaldum joined Paris Saint-Germain, but the 86-cap Netherlands ace has struggled to establish an important presence at Le Parc des Princes.

Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Moussa Sissoko (LM): Former Toon star endured relegation at Watford in 2021/22

Tottenham bided their time to sign Moussa Sissoko from Newcastle for £30m on deadline day in August 2016. Reports by Sky Sports at the time claimed Everton had bid the same amount but when Spurs came in, Sissoko did not answer Ronald Koeman’s phone call.

Sissoko spent three seasons with the Magpies for 133 appearances before moving to north London for 202 games. The 32-year-old left Spurs in August 2021 to join Watford for £3m, where he captained the Hornets to relegation as a mainstay of the Vicarage Road line-up.

Aleksandar Mitrovic (ST): Benitez started now Fulham hero in first Newcastle side

Aleksandar Mitrovic led the Newcastle line in Benitez’s first side at Leicester, but he is now the hero at Fulham firing a whopping 43 goals in 44 games to win the Championship title in 2021/22. He only offered 17 goals in 72 games across all competitions with the Magpies.

The 2015/16 season was Mitrovic’s first campaign at St James’ and remained on Tyneside until, effectively, January 2018. Fulham moved in the winter market to hire the striker on loan, before agreeing a £22m transfer, worth up to £27m, during the following summer.

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