Everyone connected with the club wanted the Spaniard to remain on board at St James – almost everyone, Mike Ashley clearly had other ideas.
The Magpies faithful will now be thinking that things can’t get any worse, though, after winger Christian Atsu suffered a suspected hamstring injury while playing for Ghana in the African Cup of Nations on Saturday.
The former Chelsea man isn’t the most vitally important member of the playing squad on Tyneside, but he is very much a solid first team member and someone who Benitez relied upon heavily.
As of yet we don’t know what the timeline is for Atsu’s recovery, but if there’s any chance that he misses the start of the season then that is terrible news for this Newcastle side.
Atsu’s contributions, while not being spectacular, were very decent indeed last season, and he improved as the campaign wore on. As per WhoScored, the 27-year-old averaged one shot per game, 0.6 key passes per game, 0.9 dribbles per game and was fouled 0.9 times per game.
He still has issues with ball retention – a near-constant bug bear for him throughout his career – the Ghanian was dispossessed 1.1 times per game and had 1.7 unsuccessful touches per game. Those are slightly worrisome statistics.
However, the overall picture of Atsu’s season is a positive one. He wasn’t perfect, but he played an important part for the Magpies and was a reliable work horse for Benitez.
Obviously he will get time to recover over the summer, but his injury is simply yet another blow to a Newcastle fanbase in dire need of something to be cheery about.