Did Newcastle United waste money on their £40 million man?
Background photo: Sir-Nobby
“He’s got everything a modern-day player wants.”
Those were Steve Bruce's words following Joelinton's unveiling as Newcastle United’s new number nine. Two months on, Newcastle is in a mire and the Brazilian doesn’t seem like the help they need.
After seven Premier League games, the contenders, pretenders and bystanders are sorting themselves, Newcastle included. One win, two draws and four defeats explain why Bruce’s men lie second from bottom.
The Toon is suffering from all kinds of problems. Their defence is shambolic. Their midfield is a joke. They have no teeth.
Mike Ashley was crucified on Tyneside in 2018/19 for his lack of financial backing in the transfer market. Irate fans urged him to sell the club if he wasn’t prepared to fund it. In the January window, Ashley finally relented, signing Miguel Almiron for a club-record £28.4 million.
On the one hand, it was an improvement. On the other, it was the 16th highest fee paid in Premier League history, less than a third of the £89.4 million Manchester United paid for Paul Pogba two-and-a-half years earlier. St James' Park is the seventh-largest stadium in the Premier League [not counting Wembley] but Ashley's spending doesn't correspond to the club's size.
The owner apparently listened to that critique as well. In the summer, he invested a further £61.5 million in the squad. Roughly two-thirds of that [£39.6] went towards Joelinton.
Bruce wholeheartedly endorsed Joelinton's recruitment. He wanted a big centre-forward who would be intimidating in the box and a genuine aerial threat. Bruce also wanted his striker young and athletic. Joelinton fit the bill perfectly. Maybe a little too perfectly.
The Bible tells the story a blind patriarch who blesses his second son after touching his skin and body parts. It later turns out the patriarch mistook the young man for his first and favourite son. Did Bruce make the same mistake with Joelinton? He's not making anyone forget Salmon Rondon.
Every now and then, a club signs a player most fans don't recognise. That’s not really a problem if the player comes in and does remarkably well. The Brazilian struggles to make any sort of impact for the Magpies. Hopes were raised when he scored the winner against Tottenham but these days everyone's first and second sons are doing that. Which raises the question, why spend nearly £40 million on an unproven commodity?
“Rafa apparently thought he was over priced. He signed Aquilani for £25m.”
“He ended up getting sacked.” 🤷♂️
@talkSPORTDrive on #NUFC's signing of Hoffenheim striker Joelinton. 🇧🇷 https://t.co/Y7NSflNDF5
Joelinton had one promising season at Hoffenheim under Julian Nagelsmann. The young German gaffer made no attempt to take him along to RB Leipzig when he switched clubs in the summer as China-bound former Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez did with his big man, Rondon. Bruce and his advisers took a very expensive gamble on the young Brazilian. So far, they look like crapping out.
The 22-year-old hasn't mustered 20 goals in a season anywhere. His highest tally is 13 during his loan spell at Rapid Wien. Joelinton scored 11 times in his 33 appearances for Hoffenheim when his two-year spell in Austria elapsed.
You’ve seen him in the Premier League now. Honestly, what do you think? Oftentimes, he looks like a passenger trying to find a seat when standing in the 18-yard-box. Other times he goes missing and you know opponents aren't going to hold the plane until he shows. The hunger to chase lost causes, help out in defence and trouble goalkeepers appears nonexistent. After 578 minutes of league action, Joelinton has only managed 11 shots from inside the box. Tammy Abraham's fired 21.
Magpies faithful were more than pleased with their poacher when he scored that winner against Spurs but a single goal doesn't make you a club legend. The Toon Army still waits to celebrate again.
Truth be told, it's difficult for any player to shine in the Newcastle environment. Ashley created a culture that toxic. It’s even harder to understand what Bruce tries to do with his team tactically. Lack of style and consistency robs Newcastle of creativity and guile in the final third. In seven matches, they only have four goals. Opponents have beaten them for 13.
Ashley let Aleksandar Mitrovic leave for Fulham where the Serbian regularly bangs in goals whether it's the Premier League or Championship. Maybe the Brazilian needs time to settle but, if he isn't the real deal, Newcastle have absolutely no excuse.