A flurry of activity on deadline day at St. James’ Park saw two major international arrivals on loan in the shape of Algeria striker Islam Slimani and Slovakia goalkeeper Martin Dubravka as Rafa Benitez finally got the centre forward and ball-playing keeper he has long sought after as he continues to remould the Newcastle squad in his own image.
Going the other way saw the loan of Aleksandar Mitrovic to Fulham, Jack Colback to Notts Forest, Henri Saviet to Turkish side Sivvasspor, Rolando Aarons to Hellas Verona and youngsters Jamie Sterry and Freddie Woodman to Crewe & Aberdeen respectively.
Algerian international Slimani is the signing that will whet the appetite of most Newcastle fans who saw Spanish striker Joselu miss a penalty against Burnley at St. James’ Park last night and several glorious chances to win the game and what would have been a huge 3 points. Instead, Burnley equalised late on to hand another stalemate to The Magpies.
The 29 year-old striker was the Algerian Footballer of the Year in 2013 and cost Leicester City a club record £28M when Claudio Ranieri bought him from Sporting Lisbon for The Foxes to compete in The Champions League after they won The Premier League title. He will be the second Algerian to play for Newcastle after midfielder Mehdi Abeid.
After two Premier League debut goals against Burnley and a winner in a 1-0 win against Porto in the UEFA competition, the goals dried up with only 3 in his next 10 for Leicester and he fell out of favour when The Foxes sacked Ranieri, whose replacement Craig Shakespeare didn’t fancy him although he finished the season with 11 goals.
Rafa Benitez is getting a fast, intelligent and physical striker with a point to prove after his Leicester move turned sour and one the manager hopes will start to finish the good chances that his Newcastle side continually create and he will have to hit the ground running with Newcastle’s survival hopes thoroughly pinned on his shoulders.
On board to help him is Slovak goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, a 29 year-old capture from Sparta Prague with 9 international Caps and is a double Slovakian Superliga title winner with Zilian, his local club where he was born and kickstarted an impressive career.
Benitez has searched for a ball-playing goalkeeper virtually since day one on Tyneside and, after the failure of Matz Sels to settle or impress at St. James’ Park, fans will be hoping Dubravka provides some serious competition for Karl Darlow and Rob Elliot.
Benitez’s first signing of the window, Kenedy, impressed hugely on his debut last night crashing the post with a rasping drive from outside the area, winning Newcastle their first penalty of the season, which unfortunately Joselu spurned, then whipping in an excellent corner for Captain Jamaal Lascelles to meet with a towering header for Newcastle’s goal.
A star in the making, Kenedy dovetailed well with the reborn Mo Diame and added pace, belief, energy and positivity to the Newcastle team and manager and fans alike will look forward to the debut of Slimani to provide further injections of both hope and goals