Rafa brought a lot of players to Tyneside.

Where are they now? Rafa Benitez’s 28 signings for Newcastle United

Newcastle United was Rafael Benitez’s first job since being sacked as Real Madrid manager. The Toon were all but relegated when he joined the club but, instead of jumping ship, he put his reputation on the line and spent a season in the Championship.

This was a bold move. If it had gone wrong, the Spaniard’s reputation was in tatters, and the Championship is one of the most competitive leagues in world football.

Rafa aced it. Newcastle came straight back up as champions, and finished 10th in their first season back in the Prem. After his second successive season in the top flight, Rafa left due to differences with Mike Ashley… So it goes.

Newcastle signed 28 players during Rafa’s three-and-a-bit years on Tyneside. Let’s see what they’re up to these days.

Matz Sels

The big Belgian keeper was fairly rubbish on Tyneside, making just nine Championship appearances before losing his place.

After a loan to Anderlecht and a permanent move to Strasbourg, it felt like Sels had found his level but, unexpectedly, he’s rocked up back in the Prem with Nottingham Forest as part of their merry-go-round of first-choice goalies.

Matt Ritchie

Famously once booted a corner flag directly into the tip of another man’s penis. Ritchie is still at Newcastle, making three-minute sub appearances to run the clock down in the 94th minute.

Dwight Gayle

Prolific in the Championship, not so prolific in the Prem.

If Norwich City Football Club was a human being, it would be Dwight Gayle. He never played for the Canaries, though. He’s at Derby now, in League One.

Jesus Gamez

Malaga legend, briefly an Atletico backup fullback, ten appearances for the Toon, retired.

Newcastle United striker Alan Shearer celebrates scoring against Leeds United, St. James' Park, January 1997.

QUIZ: Can you name every player to wear No. 9 for Newcastle in the Premier League?

Stuart Findlay

Yeah, no idea. Apparently the Scottish centre-back made one appearance in the Cup. He’s on loan at Kilmarnock now, from Oxford United. Had a little spell at Philadelphia Union where he played all of 12 competitive games. We’re just taking Wikipedia and Transfermarkt’s word on this, to be honest.

Isaac Hayden

The ex-Arsenal youth prospect actually became a bit of a favourite at St. James’ toward the end of his Newcastle career, mainly due to his tenacity, effort, and ability to play at the base of the midfield or in the backline. Hayden has been out on various loans since 2022 and is now at QPR.

He’s almost certainly played his last match for the Toon but he’ll be remembered fondly.

Grant Hanley

Zero pace, 99 strength. Hanley made 17 appearances for Newcastle sandwiched between marathon stints at Blackburn and Norwich. The Scot remains a Canary to this day, and is somehow only 32 years old. Time isn’t real.

Mo Diame

Mo Diame actually played over 100 games for the Toon, but will be forever remembered for that weird little deflected heel-goal against Brighton. The Senegalese is in Doha, Qatar, now, playing for Al-Sailiya.

Ciaran Clark

Newcastle were in dire straits when Clark got sent off nine minutes into a home match against Norwich, just before the start of the Eddie Howe era. He rarely features again and was let go at the end of his contract, after a loan to Sheffield United. Clark is now with Stoke City in The Championship.

DeAndre Yedlin

The fastest fullback this side of the Mississippi is actually still just about on this side of the Mississippi, having moved to FC Cincinnati to raise his kids in Ohio. His highlight in a black & white shirt came in the form of a flying header against Bournemouth.

Recently he was in Miami, lecturing Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, and Lionel Messi in an on-pitch team talk, which is one of the maddest things ever to happen.

Newcastle United v Manchester United. Final Score 5-0 to Newcastle United. Premier League, St James Park, Newcastle upon Tyne. Gary Pallister slide tackles Alan Shearer. 20th October 1996.

QUIZ: Can you name Newcastle’s XI from the famous 5-0 win over Man Utd in 1996?

Achraf Lazaar

As far as we can see, Lazaar has been without a club since last summer, and hasn’t made double-figure league appearances for any club since Palermo in 2016, from whom Newcastle signed the wing back.

He’s from Casablanca, is Lazaar, which means that if we wanted to we could make a movie reference here, but, frankly, my dear, we don’t give a damn.

Daryl Murphy

Imagine playing five seasons for Sunderland and still being loved by Newcastle fans. That’s possibly because he played better in his 18 games for the Toon than he did in his 100-and-odd games for Sunderland.

As far as we can see, Murphy has been without a club since 2021 when he was playing for his hometown club Waterford, in Ireland. The big fella is 41 now, so it’s probably fair to assume he’s retired.

Christian Atsu

Christian Atsu scored the winning goal for Hatayspor in the seventh minute of added time vs Kasimpasa on 5th February 2023. According to the club’s manager, he stayed with his team to celebrate instead of catching a flight out of Southern Turkey, which he was scheduled to be on.

On 6th February 2023, Atsu was tragically killed in an earthquake that took over 55,000 lives. Rest in peace, Christian.

READ NEXT: An ode to Joe Kinnear & his iconic sweary rant at Newcastle United

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every player that’s scored for Newcastle under Eddie Howe?

Florian Lejeune

The French centre-back was adored by the Geordies. A proper ball-playing centre-half in the Fabian Schar mould. Lejeune has spent most of his career in La Liga and is back there now, in the heart of the Rayo Vallecano defence.

Jacob Murphy

Many probably expected Jacob Murphy to fall by the wayside when the big money takeover arrived, but no. Murphy is still on Tyneside and has become something of a cult hero for his hardworking nature, his versatility, and, most importantly, his proper sh*thousery and lust for life.

Javier Manquillo

A steady Eddie full-back throughout his time in Geordieland, Manquillo returned to Spain in January, now plugging defensive gaps at Celta Vigo.

Mikel Merino

Ah, Mikel. The one that got away. There may or may not be a member of staff here at Planet Football who got Merino’s name and number on the back of a Newcastle shirt when he initially joined the Toon on loan from Dortmund. That member of staff might be writing this article.

A crazy move for sure. A sin, really. I was right, though, wasn’t I? (Broke the fourth wall, there. Apologies). Merino signed permanently but was sold to Real Sociedad after just 25 games. He went on to win the Copa Del Rey, and he was named in last seasons La Liga team of the season… Merino is a central midfielder playing in the same league as Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Pedri, Valverde, Koke, Tchouameni…

He’s still only 27. Love you and miss you everyday, Micky.

READ: One player that got away for every Premier League club: Palmer, Salah, Zaha…


Seven goals in 52 games for Newcastle. The man couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo —a proper barn door Billy. Now he might end up winning the Champions League with Real Madrid. Football’s mad, isn’t it?


The beta Saint-Maximin is somehow still only 28, and is currently playing in the Spanish Segunda Division with Valladolid.

Martin Dubravka

The Slovakian is currently Newcastle’s starting keeper due to a long-term injury to Nick Pope. He’s been a wonderful servant to the club, but he’s unlikely to keep his place when Pope returns.

Islam Slimani

An extremely random loan signing from Leicester who scored a grand total of zero goals in four appearances. So odd. He’s in Brazil, now, with Coritiba.

Newcastle United's Faustino Asprilla celebrates after scoring against Barcelona.

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name Newcastle’s XI from their 3-2 win over Barcelona, 1997?

Ki Sung Yueng

The Korean is now a teammate of Jesse Lingard at FC Seoul. What a world.

Fabian Schar

You know all about Fabian Schar. Still with Newcastle, still handsome, still scoring more goals than lots of strikers. Some boy.

Yoshinori Muto

The Japanese striker tried really, really hard, he just couldn’t score goals. He never managed to nail down a place in the starting XI, and ended up back in Japan with Vissel Kobe alongside… that’s right —Andres Iniesta.

Salomon Rondon

A sturdy Venezuelan with low socks and a name that is one letter away from being a fish, Rondon was loved during his one loan season in the Northeast.

He’s been everywhere, Rondon. All over the world. He’s now at Pachuca in Mexico, where he is absolutely tearing it up, Top scorer in the CONCACAF Champions Cup and a Messi-esque scoring record for Los Tuzos (that’s Pachucas nickname — means ‘The Gophers’).

Federico Fernandez

The Argentinian is now back in Argentina with Estudiantes, playing with a fella we’d completely forgotten about…

Remember Pablo Piatti? Six years at Valencia? 5’5″ winger? Well, anyway, he’s at Estudiantes, too.

Antonio Barecca

We have the vaguest memory of this happening but only as a sort of hazy apparition in the deepest recesses of our mind. Barecca is with Sampdoria in Serie B, these days.

Miguel Almiron

Miggy, Miggy, Miggy, can’t you see?
Sometimes your goals just hypnotise me
And I just love your smiley face
Makes me wanna sing The Blaydon Races

Determined to turn this into a stadium song and get it going before Miggy leaves (probably this summer, if we’re honest).