When Ayoze Perez was signed by Newcastle on June 5th of 2014, the club was fairly stable in comparison to other seasons of Mike Ashley’s reign. That does not necessarily mean much, since these past 12 years have been turbulent for Newcastle fans. Nonetheless, Loic Remy had just carried the team to a 10th place finish. Though opinions on Alan Pardew were rapidly worsening, he was only a quarter of the way through his 8-year contract (which still has not ended). Likewise, Graham Carr was scouring Europe-- predominantly France-- for the next means of profit with an 8-year deal secured.
It had turned out to be a busy summer, as Newcastle signed a total of eight players, with 6 joining before the start of August (side note: these days are long gone). Out of these 8 players, Ayoze Perez was perhaps the most under-the-radar signing. He was branded as “one for the future” while Newcastle looked to a certain Emmanuel Riviere to beef up the attacking line.
As Riviere (obviously) failed to make the grade early in the season, Ayoze was brought into the starting lineup against Tottenham Hotspur. With little expectations on his shoulder, he bagged a goal and secured the win at White Hart Lane. A mere 6 days later, he earned Newcastle a victory against a Liverpool side that was due to play Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu next.
In these short 6 days, the conversation around Ayoze shifted from “he’s got a lot of potential” to “we’ve got ourselves a rising star.” And with that shift in characterization, Ayoze became a mainstay in the squad for the next five years.
If asked the question “which player most perfectly embodies Newcastle United?” many fans would, without hesitation, shout players like Matt Ritchie, Paul Dummett, or Jamaal Lascelles. The key assumption that underlies such a response is that Newcastle United might not be blessed with the most talent, but there is plenty of grit and fighting spirit in the squad. Hence, Ritchie, Dummett, and Lascelles are good answers.
However, the best answer is probably Ayoze Perez. Now before jumping the gun, consider the obvious fact that Newcastle United is incredibly inconsistent. Rafa Benitez had done his all to lay the groundwork for a more consistent and ambitious Newcastle United, but that has obviously come to nothing. After two season of mid-table finishes, NUFC finds itself devoid of hope in a bottomless pit of misery.
While Ritchie, Dummett, and Lascelles have the fighting spirit part down, none of them match Ayoze’s level of inconsistency. After a 1-0 away win at the King Power Stadium, Rafa Benitez addressed his matchwinner, Ayoze, as a player that “could be playing for Man City already” had the Spanish striker played with more consistency. To further strengthen the notion that Ayoze is Mr. NUFC, it is worth noting that Ayoze Perez is also a shout for the fighting spirit characteristic. Perez is among the leaders in tackles, interceptions, and most importantly, distance covered when compared to other attackers in the Premier League, and he always posted cringe-y match-day collages.
If these two points are not evidence enough, turn your attention to the most damning parallel between Ayoze Perez and Newcastle United: failure to fulfill potential. Starting with Newcastle United, the club had many of the components to ascend itself to the heights of European Football. This includes a rich history, an iconic stadium, an experienced and devoted manager, and a fanbase that is perhaps loyal to a fault. Despite all of this, Mike Ashley’s ideal scenario remains a NUFC side squarely stuck in the mud as a bottom-feeder in the Premier League, now without Rafa Benitez.
Ayoze Perez’s failure to fulfill his potential is not as depressing as Newcastle’s, but it is definitely a source of frustration for Newcastle fans. Although it can be said that Ayoze has improved during his spell at Newcastle, classifying the degree of improvement with confidence would be difficult for all Newcastle fans. Ayoze Perez’s skill has always been there; it has always been a question of whether he would be able to channel it frequently enough. Unfortunately, he still drifts in and out of games and fluffs his lines too much for anyone’s liking.
At the end of the day, losing Ayoze Perez to Leicester City stings. Despite his flaws, he has contributed to a large sum of Newcastle’s goals over the past few years.
In losing Ayoze Perez, Newcastle United has lost the player that most epitomizes the club itself. Like Newcastle, Ayoze has frustratingly failed to live up to his enormous potential. Additionally, he has created moments of great happiness and great frustration when fans would least expect it.
Best of luck to Ayoze at Leicester.