During a turbulent summer at Newcastle United, where the owner and manager’s relationship was the hot topic of conversation each and every week, six players did eventually come through the doors at St James’.
One of them was a striker, who belonged to Stoke City, but had not featured in a competitive match for them since May 2016. Joselu had been shipped out by Mark Hughes after a single season, joining Deportivo on a season-long loan deal. His return of five La Liga goals in twenty appearances failed to excite many of the Geordie faithful.
There is no doubting the fact that the former Real Madrid man was signed simply because Rafa Benitez knew he needed somebody (anybody). A bargain basement signing, but not one that Benitez will feel totally underwhelmed by. Yes, he wanted more. He wanted better. The likes of Cedric Bakambu and Angel Correa were linked, but neither of which were ever going to be a realistic target. The regime Benitez has been working under for the past year is not one that you would say is centred around ambition.
So, as much as Joselu was not the first-choice, or even second, third or fourth, his manager has largely kept the faith in him this season. He has started the last seven Premier League matches, scoring two goals along the way. A scoring rate that would have him in and around double figures come the end of the season. Should he be given the entire season, though?
Aleksander Mitrovic is back in the fold after his three-game suspension and seeming exile from the squad, whilst Dwight Gayle should be fit by the time the Magpies arrive at Burnley on Monday night.
The former bagged nine goals in his debut Premier League campaign, but divides opinion like no other at Newcastle. Gayle scored 23 in the Championship last term as the club stormed to the title, but physical and mental issues have seen him become totally disillusioned with Tyneside life. With both having such critical flaws to their game, Joselu would appear to be the safe bet as of right now.
Benitez seems to trust Joselu more so than the other two, and that is absolutely key to his managerial philosophy. If he does not feel he can trust a player, he will not play, simple really. He is not particularly strong like Mitrovic, or fast like Gayle, but he is more of a blend of the two, if you will. For what he lacks in physicality, he makes up for in hard work and determination. The sheer fact that Benitez has continued to play him, despite his lack of goals, only accentuates his importance to the entire team.
In truth, Joselu is what he is. A £5 million striker brought in to do a job. That is what he has done. That is not a dig at him, in fact it is the opposite.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.