Rafa Benitez has felt compelled to revist the sale of Aleksandar Mitrovic, as the Serbian hitman resumes Premier League action as the league’s joint top scorer.
Benitez was asked about the Fulham man as his hot start to the season continued in international action in midweek.
Mitrovic’s six goals from five games this season is in stark contrast to Newcastle’s shot-shy start, as they find themselves in the bottom three with just one point.
What did Rafa say?
The Shields Gazette report Rafa said: “The first thing that I would say is that I wish him all the best. I didn’t have any problem with him. He was a professional. He’s a nice lad, and that’s it.
“He was very clear; ‘the way that I play, maybe, is not the way we have to play’. In another environment, in another division, and now with confidence, fine, he’s doing well. He’s in another team and it’s totally different.
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“He had chances for us. He was playing more than Murphy, and Murphy was similar. You see the stats, but I will not waste too much time on that. I wish him well. If we are safe, they can be safe, no problem. For us, he was not the kind of player we were looking for. That’s it.
In Rafa We Trust
There are some well-established facts at play here. Benitez is doing a great job as Newcastle manager. He is hamstrung by Mike Ashley. He is unlikely to get the Mitrovic money to spend on a new striker. Mitrovic was not well-suited to Benitez’s style of play.
However, a less popular manager than Benitez would be being criticised for the sale of Mitrovic. Newcastle lack firepower and Benitez sold off a man who is going at better than a goal a game; in the knowledge he was unlikely to be granted the money to spend.
That is not a particularly good deal. Mitrovic, like Dwight Gayle, offered Benitez firepower in a team crying out for it; but he has spurned both in order to preserve his functional style.
Could Benitez have incorporated Mitrovic into his style? Could he have turned him into the free-scoring striker Newcastle need? He was arguably Rafa’s greatest opportunity to have a striker who scores 10+ goals a season. He early season form would potentially see other managers in the league asked questions.