There’s a lot of sympathy for Rafa Benitez in the football world after his trials at Newcastle.
The manager has shown a huge amount of loyalty to the club and fans, despite a constant battle with Mike Ashley to release funds for transfers.
It looked like he might finally get to see the back of Ashley with advanced takeover talks with Amanda Staveley and her PCP company before Christmas.
But, when they dissolved in December, with Ashley saying emphatically that there was no deal on the table, Benitez had to endure another transfer window with no money to spend.
Newcastle fans waited patiently while the club was linked with player after player, only to lose out on pretty much all of the targets that Benitez had identified.
However, on deadline day he managed to secure loan deals for striker Islam Slimani and goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.
The Leicester striker is still recovering from injury and waiting for his debut in the black and white.
But Dubravka was a hero on his first appearance for the club as Newcastle beat Man United 1-0 at St James’ Park.
He made save after save, dealing with everything that United threw at home, and it led to former Newcastle striker Alan Shearer calling it a “brilliant” debut.
Dubravka is reported to have a £4million clause in his contract that means Newcastle can make his move permanent in the summer, and Shearer said that he’s already paid this back.
What’s more, if Dubravka can maintain this sort of form throughout the rest of the season, he could single-handedly save Newcastle from the drop, and that could make him a Benitez masterstroke and one of the most valuable club transfers of all time.
He’s already looked much better than either Rob Elliot or Karl Darlow and he gave the back four confidence that was in evidence throughout the game with United.
It’s always tight at the bottom and if Dubravka can win his team six points – given that he’s already helped them to three against United – it could be the difference between staying up or going down.
That could be worth around £150million, with a new TV rights deal on the horizon, and more importantly it could mean that the club is attractive to potential buyers.
That will make Ashley happy. It will also make Amanda Staveley happy if she can find the money to match Ashley’s £300million valuation – something her backers might be prepared to do once their safety is confirmed.
And that would make the Newcastle fans the happiest in the Premier League.
In other Newcastle news: ‘Instant hero’ – Dubravka just said something that convinced fans he will be a Newcastle legend
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