Newcastle United have finally agreed a deal worth in the region of £10m with Norwich for their star winger, Jacob Murphy, thus easing worries on Tyneside that Mike Ashley is failing to back Rafa in the transfer market.
The 22-year-old will join up with Benitez and his squad at Carton House in Maynooth in the next 24 hours, according to Keith Downie of Sky Sports.
An area that needed strengthening this summer has now been addressed. Murphy is a tricky, dynamic wide player who offers a significant goal threat, having scored nine goals for the Canaries in the Championship last year.
Ever since he and his identical twin brother Josh – also a winger – emerged from the youth setup at Norwich, debate has been rife as to which of the two is the better player.
Both have had similar paths. Josh has featured for England at U18, U19 and U20 level but not for Aidy Boothroyd’s U21 side, unlike Newcastle’s new reinforcement.
Josh Murphy spent time on loan at Wigan and MK Dons, scoring five times in 47 appearances. He has also scored five goals for Norwich, but in 49 first-team appearances.
Jacob, on the other hand, has been almost everywhere on loan. The £10m man had spells at Swindon, Southend, Blackpool, Scunthorpe, Colchester and Coventry, scoring 16 times in 76 appearances.
He netted nine times and contributed six assists in 39 appearances under Alex Neil and Alan Irvine at Norwich.
Newcastle’s latest acquisition does not just offer flair and a goal threat, but also versatility. Murphy has played on the left, on the right, up front and even at right-back for England U21s at the recent European Championships in Poland, where United’s new Head of Recruitment Steve Nickson was impressed by his displays.
To go more in-depth into my research on Jacob Murphy, I spoke to Norwich season ticket holder, Edward Jacobs, who has followed the tricky winger’s career very closely.
What are your immediate thoughts on the price tag? Fair for both sides, or has one come out on top?
I understand the fee is around £10m-£12.5m. I don’t know whether that sum is entirely up front or it includes add ons which may/may not be paid later. However, when you take into account Jacob had four years left on his current contract, he was always going to cost a large fee.
Perhaps a good comparator is Nathan Redmond (Jacob’s predecessor) – and there are undoubtedly similarities between them both in style. Nathan was sold last summer to Southampton for £10m. Whilst Nathan had previous top flight experience which Jacob didn’t, he only had one year left on his contract when he was sold.
Jacob’s record in the Championship in terms of assists and goals certainly stacks up with what Nathan achieved with us at this level in 2014/15 and he’s also broken into the U21 setup now like Nathan did.
Both clubs can be happy enough. Newcastle reportedly came in around the £10m mark with Norwich wanting £15m. They’ve seemingly agreed to meet in the middle.
Will Jacob be a big loss to Norwich, and considering he has never regularly played PL football, can he make the step up?
There’s no doubt Norwich will miss Jacob. He contributed a really impressive haul of goals and assists in his full debut season at this level. Although, I think his performance levels did drop off noticeably in the 2nd half of last season and ironically his twin brother Josh arguably finished the season more strongly.
However, there’s a number of potential reasons for that. I felt our former manager, Alex Neil, played him in too many matches when it was obvious that he was jaded and needed a rest. I think he suffered as a result in the latter part of the season.
Furthermore, he understandably started attracting a lot more attention and scrutiny from opposition managers and defences as his reputation grew – which in turn slightly decreased his effectiveness.
I think Newcastle are getting a really talented young player, who will excite them. However, he’s still very raw and I think this may be a season too soon for him at Premiership level. I would urge patience with him and view him as one for the middle to long term.
What type of player can Newcastle United fans expect to watch in Jacob Murphy?
Jacob’s style is what makes this transfer fascinating and slightly unusual from a Newcastle perspective. When you look Benitez’s time (particularly at Liverpool), Jacob is not a winger Benitez traditionally utilises or trusts tactically.
At Liverpool, Benitez liked wingers who were disciplined, rigid and contribute strongly to the defensive work of the team – Dirk Kuyt possibly his best example.
By contrast, Murphy is a very unpredictable winger who makes a lot of strange, unexpected movements as well as looking to get shots away where possible. Hence he gets the goals and assists he does.
It’ll be fascinating to see whether Benitez changes or expects Jacob to conform when he does get given his opportunity.
What would you say his main weaknesses are?
His biggest weakness is undoubtedly his defensive work. Norwich had a very cavalier right flank last season with Jacob and the ultra attacking full back, Ivo Pinto.
Whilst it was stunning to watch offensively, it did leave you on the edge of your seat watching Norwich defend!
I’d imagine this is an area Benitez has already done his homework on and he’ll need to drill Jacob hard on the training ground before he’s ready to play against quality Premier League opponents who will exploit such weaknesses in shape and tactical discipline.
It’s about balancing risk with reward in Newcastle’s next year and whilst Jacob has some wonderful attacking weapons at his disposal, his defensive lapses could be equally as harmful against quality opposition.
It’s well-known that his identical twin brother, Josh, is also on Norwich’s books. How can you distinguish between both of their playing styles?
Your old gaffer, Chris Hughton, used to have such issues telling them apart on the training ground that legend goes he insisted upon them wearing different coloured boots to tell them apart.
As you’d expect they’re very similar in style. However, Jacob has been predominantly right sided whereas Josh has been more left sided in his time here.
The main reason for this being that playing in the same youth team for so many years meant they simply couldn’t both play on the same flank. So one had to switch over to the other side early on. They were both the undoubted stars of a Norwich side which beat a very expensively assembled Chelsea side in the 2013 FA Youth Cup final.
Josh was always seen as the brighter prospect of the two. However, Jacob exploded past him this season and it’ll be interesting to see whether Josh can now close the gap again – something I’d felt he started doing by the end of last season.
Jacob is still quite young. How far do you think he can go? A future England international?
In terms of how far Jacob can go – he has all the attributes he needs to be a good Premier League performer. Given the dearth of top class wide players in the international setup right now, there’s no reason that he couldn’t be knocking on the door internationally in years to come.
He only has to look to Nathan Redmond for inspiration who was capped against Germany last season. He’s far from the finished article right now and I think he will need to be seen as one for the future at present though.
I wish him all the best of luck and it’s everything you want from your academy; producing first team players who either stay or are sold for very good money.
It’ll be nice not playing you guys next year because frankly my heart probably can’t take another 19 goal thriller which these contests invariably serve up!
I would like to thank Edward for generously giving NUFC360 his time.