Benitez warns Newcastle signings as he sets sights on two new defenders

Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez has his players back for pre-season training today
Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez has his players back for pre-season training today

Rafa Benitez has warned new signings coming into Newcastle United that they must be able to live up to expectations – as he prepares to add another two new faces to his squad.

On another busy day yesterday, Newcastle put the finishing touches to Dwight Gayle’s transfer while moving a step closer to completing a deal for Matt Ritchie.

But it was two departures that made just as many headlines, with Andros Townsend undergoing a medical with Crystal Palace ahead of a £13million move, and captain Fabricio Coloccini on the verge of joining Argentine side San Lorenzo.

The exit of Coloccini after an eight-year spell on Tyneside had been on the cards since his comments in Argentina last month about wishing to return to his boyhood club.

With Steven Taylor having also left the club at the end of the season, it leaves Benitez with just two senior centre-halves, in Jamaal Lascelles and Chancel Mbemba, as the squad returns for pre-season training today.

The Championship club have irons in the fire, having drawn up a shortlist of defenders once Benitez opted to stay with the Magpies.

QPR centre-half Steven Caulker, Arsenal youngster Isaac Hayden and Blackburn’s Grant Hanley have all been linked with the club, but, as Benitez prepared to put the squad through their paces today, he warned that anyone wanting to play for Newcastle must be able to handle the pressure.

“We have all the medicals and all the controls, and I expect to have a very good pre-season,” Benitez said.

“Normally, because they are professional, they’ll come back fit and we’ll try to improve the fitness of players, but also their understanding of the game, their understanding of our ideas and the way that we want to play, and try to work as a unit, as a team.

“And after that, we’ll try to give them a little bit of what it means to be at this club, what it means to be a player here. Now we have to show all these things in the Championship.”

There was a delay over the announcement of Gayle’s arrival, although his signing was initially mentioned in an article on the club website before being quickly removed.

Official confirmation should arrive today, followed by Ritchie who jetted in to Tyneside last night for his medical.

The Bournemouth winger will cost an initial £10m which could rise to £12m with add-ons, which will still be less than the £13m Newcastle will receive for Townsend after Crystal Palace activated the release clause in his contract.

Benitez had hoped to keep the winger for the Championship bid, but the lure of the Premier League and a return to London proved too strong for the 24-year-old after just six months on Tyneside.

Townsend’s exit caused a lot of upset and anger among fans, but there was no such feelings about Coloccini’s departure.

The 34-year-old had long hankered after a return to Argentina, and arguably should have left the club last summer instead of being handed a new contract.

It ends a three-year chase by San Lorenzo, whose coach Diego Aguirre said: “Coloccini will be very welcome. He will bring much to the club on and off the field.”