Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez has confirmed Daryl Murphy is on his way out but Rob Elliot is on course to start their Premier League return as his No 1.
The Spaniard extracted value for the €2m he paid to Ipswich Town for Murphy with the six goals he provided in their Championship-winning campaign but he’s looking beyond the 34-year-old for his top-flight firepower.
A number of Championship outfits, including his former club Sunderland, are being linked with the Waterford native but Benitez will want to recoup some of that transfer fee, especially with the Irish striker having a year to run on his contract.
There’s better news for compatriot Elliot, who recovered from a serious knee injury to finish last season between the posts.
Rival stoppers Tim Krul and Karl Darlow look to be on their way out of St James’ Park and while Benitez scans the market for further options, having missed out to Chelsea on his prime target Willy Caballero, Elliot should retain the position for the opener against Tottenham Hotspur on August 13.
“The main thing for Rob is to be fit and he’s training hard after playing the final three games of last season,” said the Magpies boss.
“He is a good goalkeeper but I want him to compete. You can’t have players that think this is easy because they are the only one in that position.
“Hopefully we can bring in a new goalkeeper, and this competition will be good for the team.
“Murphy is different. We are talking about different things in the Premier League and we have some clubs asking about him.
“We have been chatting at training in recent days and he knows that if a club comes in, he will go on a permanent transfer, once the deal is best for him and us.
“I was really pleased with his contribution last season, not just because he played games and scored goals but he led by example, both in the dressing room and training. He was a positive influence on the team.”
Another Irishman, Ciarán Clark, will also be tested in the upcoming campaign following the arrival of €10m central defender Florian Lejeune from Eibar.
Unlike Clark, however, Frenchmen Lejeune hasn’t yet represented his county at senior level nor played in the Premier League.
“We were following Clark for years before we signed him because he’s an experienced Premier League centre-back,” Benitez said of the former Aston Villa defender.
“There are not many centre-backs, who are left-footed, can pass the ball well, compete in the air and are tactically good.
“Lejeune will have to understand what the tempo and intensity of Premier League means but he can compete with Jamaal (Lascelles) and with Clark.” At various stages last season, as James McCarthy seemed to be increasingly marginalised at Everton, he was being touted for a move to Newcastle.
Although he admits to being an admirer of the midfielder, Benitez indicated his interest in expanding the Irish contingent in the north-east had cooled.
“He (McCarthy) is a good player but we now have a lot of them at this club,” he explained.
“We have been linked with around 100 players but he is not our first target at the moment.”
After his initial Premier League return ended in relegation, Benitez wants to ensure Newcastle don’t repeat the mistakes on their second coming.
“Staying at Newcastle after relegation was a risky decision at the beginning but I was really pleased it turned out the right decision,” confessed the former Inter Milan and Real Madrid boss.
“It was also my idea to stay close to my family in England because I had been travelling everywhere for the previous two or three years. The fans and stature of Newcastle helped me to stay too.”
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