Rafael Benítez backs Miguel Almirón to make instant impact at Newcastle

Louise Taylor on 10 February 2019

After persuading Mike Ashley to break Newcastle’s transfer record by spending £21m on importing Miguel Almirón from MLS, Rafael Benítez could be forgiven for feeling slightly nervous.

He may be expected to wonder whether the Paraguay and former Atlanta playmaker – in line to make his debut at Wolves on Monday – will vindicate his judgment. Since becoming Newcastle’s owner, Ashley has, after all, been notorious for demanding his money’s worth and took considerable coaxing into smashing a record set by Michael Owen’s £16m move from Real Madrid in 2005.

The reality is very different. “No,” said Benítez, emphatically and pointedly. “After five windows when we are in profit I do not have any pressure.”

How quickly the 25-year-old Almirón starts to shape things on the pitch depends on his speed of adaption to the Premier League. “Mentally he’s ready,” Benítez said. “He wants to play. In training he’s very dynamic and quick, always involved, but he has to cope with the physicality of the Premier League. I think he can do that.

“We know he needs to adapt but he has the pace, the runs and the ability. We will see if he is strong enough to do the same things he was doing in the MLS on the ball and without the ball.

“He’s different to the players we have, his game is running between the lines and behind the defenders, scoring goals and making passes.”

Newcastle are too close to the relegation zone for comfort and could do with victory at Molineux. “It’s very tight,” Benítez said. “I think 36-38 points will secure safety.”

He is hoping Almirón can help Salomón Rondón score the goals to keep his side safe. The loanee from West Brom has impressed and Benítez – still to extend a contract that runs out in May – would like to make the deal permanent.

Given that Rondón turns 30 this year and Ashley does not relish spending money on players over 25 this could prove a problem but Benítez demurs. “It’s an easy decision,” he said. “Everybody can see he’s doing well – and I think he can do better.”

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