The Newcastle fans are feeling nervous in the Transfer Tavern ahead of their relegation six-pointer clash against Southampton on Saturday afternoon.
Rafa Benitez is facing arguably one of the toughest challenges of his illustrious career to date by attempting to keep Newcastle in the Premier League this season, and if he achieves that goal there is no doubt he will need to significantly strengthen his squad to avoid another relegation dogfight next season. The Magpies faithful propping up our bar were fuming with their club’s lack of transfer activity during the January window despite the fact Kenedy, Islam Slimani and Martin Dubravka all arrived on temporary loan moves.
The arrival of the latter slightly went under the radar amidst Newcastle’s desperate hunt for a new striker which eventually concluded with the arrival of Slimani who is yet to make a single appearance for the club. Dubravka has made a positive start to life at St James’ Park so far – he played an instrumental role in his side’s valiant 1-0 victory over Manchester United on his debut before putting in a pair of decent displays against Bournemouth and Liverpool away from home.
His place in the first-team looks firmly secure, but his stay at Newcastle looks destined to be a temporary one as The Chronicle have reported that the club are favourites to sign Iker Casillas on a free transfer in the summer. Although Casillas would be a magnificent capture for the club, they might have a better chance of signing Pepe Reina (valued at £1.8 million by Transfermarkt) due to his affiliation with Rafa Benitez.
Reina is set to become a free agent this summer when his contract with Napoli expires, and although reports from TalkSPORT suggest he is set to agree a move to AC Milan, the Benitez factor could persuade the Spaniard to make a return to the Premier League. The 35-year-old goalkeeper played under Benitez for 5 seasons prior to Benitez’s departure from Liverpool, so the prospect of reuniting with his old manager could certainly swing his decision in Newcastle’s favour.
So far this season, Reina has kept 13 clean sheet from 26 Serie A appearances and played a key role in enabling Napoli to go head-to-head with Juventus for the title this season. His wage demands could prove to be a stumbling block in negotiations between club and player, but considering his obvious talent and connections to Benitez, he is a goalkeeper that the club should be targetting when the season reaches its conclusion.