With relegation now looking a real probability rather than a possibility, many fans have been asking the question: who will remain at Newcastle United next season? Much of the speculation surrounding Rafa Benitez’s contract was all but confirmed shortly after his appointment, that the Spaniard does have a relegation release clause in his contract which he would almost inevitably exercise should they face the dreaded drop. This fear was compounded by current Spain boss Vicente Del Bosque tipping Benitez as one possible successor to his post as national team manager.
Following United’s 3-2 defeat at the hands of relegation rivals Norwich City, it leaves them six points adrift of safety, which is effectively seven given Newcastle’s inferior goal difference. With only 21 points left to play for and difficult ties against the likes of title contenders Tottenham, Newcastle’s fate is almost sealed in next season’s Championship, unless a footballing miracle occurs. Having signed a number of high-profile players last summer and in recent years, it is also highly likely that if they are relegated, they will sell or release a proportion of their first team squad.
Goalkeepers — Newcastle currently have four first team goalkeepers: Tim Krul, Rob Elliot, Karl Darlow and Freddie Woodman. Krul and Elliot are both out injured for extended periods of time with serious knee injuries, and will most likely remain at the club over the summer due to their injury status and the fact that clubs would aim to sign fully-fit goalkeepers.
Karl Darlow has a contract with the club until June 2020 and having previously had experience at Championship level with Nottingham Forest, it would be likely that the club will start the 2016/17 season with Darlow in between the posts. Despite his potential, Freddie Woodman is most likely to depart St James’ Park in the summer as he may not be offered a contract renewal as the club looks to reduce its operating budget.
Defenders — Newcastle have nine first team defenders, including Curtis Good and Kevin Mbabu, only the latter having made a first-team appearance. Mbabu’s contract expires this summer, but the club may be tempted to retain the Swiss defender as it seems likely that they will sell other first team defenders such as Daryl Janmaat.
Janmaat has been tipped to leave the club this summer if they are relegated following two unsuccessful seasons at right-back. Newcastle will be keen to retain DR Congo international Chancel Mbemba as the centre-back has been a revelation at the heart of defence, an ever-present force whose no-nonsense style of play has attracted many admirers among the black and white faithful.
His central defensive partner and captain, Fabricio Coloccini, will most probably remain at the club until the expiration of his contract next summer in June 2017. However, speculation about a possible return to Argentina is likely to gather pace again if United do drop into the second tier.
The team’s longest-serving first team player, Steven Taylor, will most probably depart the club after 12 years in the fold as a starting centre-back. Injuries have plagued his career to date and that will be something that plays on the mind of the decision-makers when it comes to deciding whether to renew his contract.
Another injury-plagued defender, Massadio Haïdara, will aim to seek assurances on his future if Newcastle go down with plenty of competition at the left-back slot from the likes of local academy graduate Paul Dummett and on occasion Kevin Mbabu. Haïdara himself may be looking to further his career elsewhere and if his agent can arrange a deal, a route back to Ligue 1 may be on the cards.
Two homegrown defenders in Dummett and Jamaal Lascelles have been dubbed Championship quality for much of the season, and therefore interest from Premier League clubs could be rather slim following United’s impending relegation.
Midfielders — United’s situation regarding midfielders is rather more complex, as there are a considerable number of potential departures in the first team squad. This is complicated by the fact that owner Mike Ashley has a history of making profit on player transfers, previously selling the likes of Yohan Cabaye and Mathieu Debuchy for hefty sums. This process may not be difficult to achieve with Georginio Wijnaldum, United’s top scorer with nine league goals who has attracted plenty of attention from some of Europe’s top clubs, looking to cash in on an experienced talent at his market value of around £15m.
Another likely departure is that of French international Moussa Sissoko, signed for roughly £2m in January of 2013, and from Ashley’s perspective making a profit on a Premier League experienced player of his potential should not provide too troublesome. Following Cheick Tiote’s January transfer window to the Chinese Premier League breaking down, the Ivorian will most probably pursue a move away from Tyneside. Similarly, Siem de Jong will be unlikely to be willing to play in England’s second tier. The former Ajax captain would opt for a move back to the Eredivisie rather than remain at the club and not be guaranteed a starting place.
Fringe players Gabriel Obertan and Sylvain Marveaux are almost certain to leave on free transfers having featured sporadically for each of the last three United managers. Defensive midfielders Jack Colback and Vurnon Anita would arguably be more suited to Championship-style football and would be tempted to remain at the club, with years still to run on their current deals.
January transfer window signings Andros Townsend, Jonjo Shelvey and Henri Saivet will find themselves in a difficult situation should United face the near-inevitable drop. Esteemed internationals for England and Senegal respectively, they will be concerned for their international careers playing in the second division, therefore they may seek quick moves or perhaps to be loaned out to a Premier League side as their contracts are valid until the 2020/21 season.
Wingers Yoan Gouffran and Rolando Aarons could each find themselves in limbo, with the former with a year left to run on his contract but having not featured very much at all this campaign, will be searching for a route out of the exit door this summer, which could be a cut-price possibility. Aarons, on the other hand, has a dilemma. After failing to agree terms on a new deal earlier on in the season, the England youth international may tempt a potential suitor to pay the compensation fee on a free transfer.
Strikers — One thing that United fans want more than anything is to retain Aleksandar Mitrović past the end of this season. The enigmatic, maverick Serbian is a fans’ favourite and has netted eight times so far this term, going from strength to strength with every start he makes.
Still at the tender age of 21, with his entire career ahead of him, a season in the Championship could be very beneficial to the warring forward. Having been bought last summer for upwards of £13m, it is unlikely that a similar fee will be fronted up to prise away the Serbian international from Tyneside who still has four years remaining on his current deal.
The dream pairing of Mitrović and Ayoze Perez may be too good to be true for the Championship, as the young Spaniard has attracted attention from the likes of Porto but also Premier League giants Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. Holding onto both strikers would be a mammoth task for United’s executives but not impossible.
Two players whom the fans may be more impartial to leaving would be Papiss Cissé and Emmanuel Riviere. Cissé has been tipped to head to the Turkish Süper Lig or follow Senegalese strike partner Demba Ba to China for a considerable payday, and there would be no better excuse to leave Newcastle than if they were to be relegated.
Riviere has had a torrid time at Newcastle and many fans may be glad to see the back of him. Poor form made his 2014/15 campaign a miserable one, while the 2015/16 season has seen him start just one match due to injury. However, that requires a club to bid for the Frenchman, which may not materialise given his awful goalscoring and injury records.
Should Newcastle face the drop, which is a near certainty, many of the current playing squad will depart, much like previously relegated sides. With many of the players on high wages, the club may aim to get those players off the books to cut costs and prepare for life in the Championship. Who will remain at Newcastle United next season? There will be a complete overhaul and a post-mortem of the season conducted, because relegation or not, this season has been a disaster.