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Newcastle: Rafa Benitez had a nightmare with Christian Atsu

Newcastle United were taken over by Saudi Arabian consortium PIF in October of last year and they made an instant impression at St. James’ Park as they sacked Steve Bruce and replaced him with Eddie Howe.

The former Bournemouth coach led the team to safety in the Premier League last season and currently has the Magpies sitting sixth in the table as it stands.

He has done a sublime job to date and Toon supporters should be hoping that he is at the club for many more years to come, if he can continue to get his team to deliver quality performances and results on the pitch.

Another manager who enjoyed an excellent spell with the club prior to PIF’s arrival was Spanish boss Rafa Benitez. The ex-Liverpool coach managed to win the Championship title with Newcastle in 2016/17 and kept them afloat in the Premier League for two years before leaving in 2019.

However, he was not immune to making the odd mistake and one signing he had a nightmare with was winger Christian Atsu. The attacker joined on loan from Chelsea for the 2016/17 season in the Championship and chipped in with five goals and three assists in 32 appearances for the Magpies.

His form in the second tier was enough to convince Benitez to sign him for the 2017/18 Premier League campaign. The club snapped him up for a fee in the region of £6m and this turned out to be an error on the manager’s part as Atsu went on to struggle in the top-flight.

In four years at St. James’ Park on a permanent basis, the forward played 86 matches and contributed with three goals and seven assists in all competitions. These statistics show that he did not deliver quality in the attacking areas during his time at the top level, despite playing plenty of games.

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Former Toon manager Steve Bruce once claimed that the dud worked “tirelessly” so you could not doubt his work rate or his willingness to improve but it did not translate into good performances on the pitch.

He did not deliver enough in the final third over the course of a number of years and he was eventually released on a free transfer in the summer of 2021.

Therefore, Benitez had a nightmare with the signing of Atsu on a permanent deal as he was a flop in the Premier League and cost the club £6m, with no resale value as he left for nothing after four years of disappointing returns on the pitch.