Salomon Rondon is looking increasingly likely to be where Rafa Benitez is drawing his line in the sand.
The Newcastle manager was not allowed to even make an offer to buy the striker (only a loan allowed and that dependent on Gayle going in the other direction), with Mike Ashley reported to be refusing to entertain the idea of paying a sizeable fee for a striker who was set to turn 29 (in September 2018).
This despite the sale of Aleksandar Mitrovic to Fulham in a deal worth £22m, rising to £27m.
As we move on towards the end of the season, battle lines are being drawn.
Mike Ashley is said to want to return to a rigid transfer policy whereby players of no more than 25 years of age are targeted, ensuring there is a chance of them increasing in value, or at the very least retain their value.
Rafa Benitez on the other hand, naturally wants the freedom to buy and sell players based on what is needed for his team squad, both now and moving forward.
Many times in the past, Rafa has made clear that this freedom to wheel and deal as he sees fit, is at least as important as to how big the actual budget is for bringing in new signings.
Salomon Rondon ticks all of the boxes for the manager as a player top of the list for him to sign this summer but seemingly doesn’t tick anything for the owner.
The loan striker has been excellent, scoring (eight, nine including League Cup goal) and assisting (five so far) in the Premier League, as well as leading the line superbly and proving an integral part of the team.
With the signing of Miguel Almiron, there are real positive signs of an attacking formation that can improve still further, Salomon Rondon at the sharp end, supported by Almiron and Perez, or potentially another new signing.
As for the player himself, he has made perfectly clear what the situation is…
4 March 2019:
Salomon Rondon talking to the Chronicle:
“They [Newcastle United/ Mike Ashley] know what I want and what my family want.
“I have spoken with them and made it clear.
“If there is an opportunity for me to be here, I will stay here 100%.
“If not I will say thank you to everybody and see what happens next.
“It’s a pleasure to be here and my family are settled and happy to be here, I play with the number nine on my back and it is a pleasure for me.
“I am still on loan but if I get to stay here then I’ll be at a beautiful place.
“If not I will say thank you and wish you all luck for the future.
“I love being here…being here is great for me, I am settled here.
“I will be trying to score more goals and then we will see what happens in the future, I’m only on loan so you never know what happens.
“If I could stay many years here I’d love to, I love wearing the number nine and scoring goals for the team.”