Regardless of who is in the Newcastle dugout next season, midfield will be one of the key areas to be immediately addressed.
Mo Diame is out of contract at the end of June; Isaac Hayden reluctantly wants to leave; Ki Sung-yueng is entering the final year of the deal he signed last year; Jonjo Shelvey is likely to leave – particularly if Rafa Benitez stays; and Sean Longstaff is not certain to be fully recovered from his injury in time for the start of the season.
It means big changes are likely this summer, and getting those right could determine the Magpies’ fate next term.
Diame is unlikely to stay, and realistically, if Newcastle aspire to improve, they will need better than the Senegal international. Ki has only impressed in spells, and also does not appear to be the player to take the club to the next level.
As was the case with Aleksander Mitrovic last summer, Benitez does not seem to have faith in Shelvey. That means the former Liverpool player will probably move on, should the Spaniard remain in charge.
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Longstaff and Hayden were Newcastle’s midfield success story
The Longstaff and Hayden partnership was, arguably, Newcastle’s success story last season. Breaking it up will be tough, but with Hayden’s family situation, it is the only foreseeable outcome. He still has two years left on his contract, and his fantastic form in 2019 should see him command a sizeable fee.
His mature displays were a pleasant surprise, and has seen him emerge as an automatic starter next season. Such has been his influence, it is now a question of who Newcastle bring in to partner the local youngster.
Many players will be linked in coming weeks, but the club remains in limbo until Rafa’s situation is sorted out.
With it being such an important position, they cannot afford to waste time before approaching their targets. Failure to act quickly will once again see the club scrambling in the bargain basement at the last minute.