Mags chase defensive boost after sealing Ritchie-Gayle double deal
Rafa Benitez will switch his attentions to defensive recruits after Newcastle United splashed out Â£22million on Dwight Gayle and Matt Ritchie.
Striker Gayle, 25, has arrived from Crystal Palace in a deal worth up to £10million yesterday, with Ritchie moving from Bournemouth for £12million – both penning five-year deals at St James’s Park.
Both deals represent major coups for Benitez, with the pair agreeing to drop down a division in a bid to help Newcastle win promotion out of the Championship.
And attention will now turn to bringing in defensive reinforcements.
Confirmation of captain Fabricio Coloccini’s departure to Argentine side San Lorenzo is imminent, with the 34-year-old bringing an end to an eight-year spell on Tyneside.
QPR centre-half Steven Caulker, Arsenal youngster Isaac Hayden and Blackburn’s Grant Hanley have all been linked as possible replacements as Benitez rebuilds his squad.
Gayle and winger Ritchie were two key pieces of the jigsaw.
Ritchie – signed to replace Andros Townsend who has joined Crystal Palace for £13million – has experience of winning the Championship title with Bournemouth.
And he insists he is up for the challenge of bringing top-flight football back to Tyneside.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling to come to a football club like this,” said the 26-year-old Scotland international.
“I’m really looking forward to the challenge.
“The potential of this football club with the manager, the dressing room, the squad that we have, I’m sure it’s going to be an exciting time and a really positive future for the football club.
“I like to think that I score goals and can create goals, and hopefully I can do that this season.
“I’m sure that’s what I’ve been brought here and hopefully we can achieve the aim of getting promoted back to the Premier League.”
The fee is an initial £10million rising to £12million. Benitez added: “He has great ability and pace, and as soon as we knew that Andros Townsend could be leaving, our priority was to finalise this deal.”
Gayle also offers pace, and the former Peterborough frontman is not fazed by the challenge.
“I’m quite quick, and I’m going to give my all and work hard for the team, and try my best every game,” he said.
“You want to get to the 20 mark, and that’s the first stage you want to get to.
“You go into each game trying to score, but the main aim for us is just to get promoted – that’s going to be the main idea.
“It’s a massive club, and I don’t see us not being at the top of the table or there or thereabouts.
“I’m looking forward to it and hopefully I can help push the team that way with my goals and my performances.”