The Magpies correspondent has claimed that the club were laying the foundations of their eventually successful pursuit of the Frenchman while Benitez was still in charge.
However, Douglas believes that the idea of the Spaniard ever spending £20million on an undisciplined maverick like Saint-Maximin is an unlikely one.
Douglas’ Chronicle colleague Lee Ryder wrote in a piece for their website in June that Rafa wasn’t sure about signing Joelinton, who eventually joined for a club record fee this summer. However, it appears he may have had his doubts about Saint-Maximin, too.
When you combine this news with Benitez’s views on the signing of Joelinton, you start to stray into the territory of current head coach Steve Bruce having little to no say on transfer policy. His two biggest signings since coming into the job were both players who the club had wanted to bring in under the previous boss. That doesn’t exactly suggest that they are players Bruce had singled out himself as being essential to his plans. You don’t want to call the former Sheffield Wednesday chief a puppet of owner Mike Ashley and managing director Lee Charnley, but it certainly doesn’t seem as if he is one of the key decision-makers at St James’ Park at this moment in time. Perhaps this is genuinely a case of all parties agreeing that Joelinton and Saint-Maximin were good transfer targets, but it might also be an incident where Charnley told Bruce ‘this is who you’re getting’. Bruce may feel so lucky to have gotten the Magpies job that he doesn’t want to upset the apple cart by going against Charnley. However, this is all mere speculation.