Mike Ashley may rue Steve Bruce’s handling of Sean Longstaff after Newcastle United reportedly rejected a move by Valencia to sign the midfielder ahead of Monday’s deadline.
According to the Mirror, Valencia approached the Toon wishing to discuss a deal that would have seen Longstaff join the La Liga outfit until the end of the season with a view to a £15m transfer.
The Mestalla Stadium natives, managed by former Watford coach Javi Gracia, had hoped that Longstaff would be available for a move with the prospect of purchasing the 23-year-old in the summer.
Newcastle opposed Valencia’s offer and instead plan to offer Longstaff a new contract, while Bruce is loath to part with the Magpies’ product and weaken his squad amid a potential relegation battle.
United moved to eight points clear of the Premier League drop zone with a 2-0 win over Everton on Saturday, while 18th-placed Fulham and 19th-placed West Bromwich Albion were forced to settle for a point after drawing 2-2 at The Hawthorns.
Longstaff has not featured for Newcastle since the Toon became the first side to lose a top-flight game to Sheffield United this season, in what was his ninth start in 12 league appearances this term.
Valencia only offering an option to purchase Longstaff for £15m in the summer shows the scale of the midfielder’s decline over the past 18-months, having been valued by the Magpies as high as £50m amid interest from Manchester United in the summer of 2019.
The Red Devils were not willing to pay the asking price, regardless of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reportedly demanding a deal was secured for £25m, and soon made the Newcastle product yesterday’s news despite their on-going search for a specialist defensive midfielder.
Magpies legend Rob Lee even recently took to claiming that Longstaff has to earn a move to a top side, while speaking exclusively with Football FanCast amid links to Tottenham Hotspur, as he must get his head down to be the player that he was previously.
Part of that has to be attributed to Bruce, who has overseen Longstaff’s return from a knee ligament injury and failed to get the midfielder back to anywhere near the level that Rafa Benitez saw him reach following the Toon star’s senior breakthrough.
Benitez had long valued Longstaff’s potential, he rejected moves by Rangers to sign the 23-year-old before ever making a first-team appearance on Tyneside, and backed the youngster to continue developing at a rapid rate.
“He is somebody who will continue to get better because he listens to you and works hard. He’s very humble,” Benitez said, via quotes by Chronicle Live. “He knows that he’s doing well. At the same time, he will continue to work hard.
“He’s not somebody who will just accept arriving on the scene then say: ‘That’s me done’.”
Something must be missing on the training ground for Longstaff to regress at such a rapid rate, and no doubt that will leave Ashley rueful of Bruce’s methods knowing the size of fee Newcastle are watching fade away with every day that passes.
AND in other news – Exclusive: Rob Lee slams “laughable” Newcastle and Steve Bruce decision…