Football Features

What happened next? Every player who left Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle United after their 2016 relegation

By Squawka News

What happened next? Every player who left Rafa Benitez's Newcastle United after their 2016 relegation

Published: 15:46, 7 May 2020 | Updated: 10:04, 30 March 2021

It is not yet confirmed, but Newcastle United look set to come under new ownership.

The departure of Mike Ashley is being met with widespread joy among Newcastle fans hoping to see the North East club move further away from the relegation battle and the lows of 2016.

On May 11, 2016, Newcastle were demoted to the Championship in one of the worst ways possible: as a result of bitter rivals Sunderland’s 3-0 win over Everton. Rafael Benitez was in charge at the time and remained in his position for a season in the second tier, helping them gain promotion at the first time of asking.

But while Benitez stayed, Newcastle’s relegation led to a summer of clearances in 2016 as expensive names were taken off the wage bill, and players found escape routes to continue playing at the highest level. Listed below is every player to leave Newcastle before their 2016/17 Championship-winning campaign truly got underway and an account of what has happened to them during their post-Tyneside careers.

Moussa Sissoko

  • Club joined: Tottenham Hotspur
  • Reported transfer fee: £30m
  • Games for Newcastle: 133

After impressing for France at Euro 2016, the attacking midfielder earned a last-minute move to Spurs to become the club’s then-record signing on the very last day of the summer transfer window.

It’s fair to say Sissoko didn’t initially live up to this billing. He was in and out of the team for long spells and looked destined to fall into the ‘big-money flop’ bracket. But something changed at the beginning of the 2018/19 campaign.

Mauricio Pochettino’s patience paid off and Sissoko became an undroppable member of Tottenham’s first-team. Even following the arrival of Jose Mourinho, Sissoko remained a big part of Tottenham’s side before suffering a knee injury.

Georginio Wijnaldum

  • Club joined: Liverpool
  • Reported transfer fee: £25m
  • Games for Newcastle: 40

Wijnaldum was something of an enigma for Newcastle. The Dutchman was at times a bona fide match-winner at St. James’ Park, only to then disappear without a trace during fixtures played away from home.

Although used as an attacking midfielder for the Magpies, when he moved to Liverpool in the summer of 2016 it was to play a deeper role under Jurgen Klopp. The switch has suited him and his new team’s system down to a tee.

The former PSV Eindhoven midfielder scored some big goals for the Reds in his first season at Anfield against top six rivals Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City, and set up others with some key assists to help secure points versus Stoke City, Bournemouth and Spurs.

Over the last two seasons, his total tally has reduced, but he has proved to be an important part of Liverpool’s Champions League-winning and Premier League-chasing squads.

Andros Townsend

  • Club joined: Crystal Palace
  • Reported transfer fee: £13m
  • Games for Newcastle: 13

A January signing from Spurs brought in to try and fire Newcastle to safety, Townsend was pulled down into the Championship with the rest of the club but took the opportunity to return to the Premier League by joining Palace that summer.

It took time for the winger to find his form in south London but as the years have passed, Townsend has become one of Palace’s most important players. Last season, he scored in away games at Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea, and while his playing time has been cut in 2019/20, Townsend remains impressive.

He has also added to the defensive side of his game, playing a more reserved role when instructed to by Roy Hodgson.

Remy Cabella

  • Club joined: Olympique Marseille
  • Reported transfer fee: £8m
  • Games for Newcastle: 34

After a season spent on loan with Marseille in 2015/16, the midfielder made his move back to France permanent in the summer of 2016.

Cabella was Wijnaldum’s precursor at Newcastle to some extent, as both players operated in the same role behind the striker for the Magpies. Unlike the Dutchman, though, Cabella has continued to play in a more advanced position for OM.

Yet it was far from a dream return to Ligue 1. After just one permanent season at Marseille, he joined St Etienne on loan. St Etienne then bought the 28-year-old but again he failed to light up the French top flight and was sold to Krasnodar last summer. His start to life in Russia was halted by an ACL injury.

Daryl Janmaat

  • Club joined: Watford
  • Reported transfer fee: £7.5m
  • Games for Newcastle: 75

The Dutchman became first-choice for Watford in his first season, playing as a right-back and right wing-back for Walter Mazzarri, and despite the ups and downs suffered by the Hornets he stood out as one of their better performers.

However, the past two seasons have been less impressive for Janmaat, who has made just 32 appearances across all competitions, suffering with a recurring knee problem. Still, the full-back has been a decent addition to Watford’s squad.

Papiss Cisse

  • Club joined: Shandong Luneng
  • Reported transfer fee: £2.5m
  • Games for Newcastle: 131

The Senegalese striker provided the firepower along with Demba Ba to send Alan Pardew’s Newcastle into the top five in 2012, scoring 13 goals in 14 league appearances after joining the club in January.

Unsurprisingly, his early form could not be sustained and only managed to find the net 24 times in the other 103 Premier League games that followed. He left to join Chinese Super League club Shandong Luneng in July 2016, where he scored an impressive 18 goals in 34 appearances before leaving for Turkish side Alanyaspor in 2018.

Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel here.

Fabricio Coloccini

  • Club joined: San Lorenzo
  • Reported transfer fee: Free
  • Games for Newcastle: 275

The former Newcastle captain was tipped to take over as player-manager in the aftermath of Alan Pardew’s dismissal in 2015. Instead, Steve McClaren got the job.

In any case, Coloccini had already indicated that he wanted to return to his native Argentina and did so a year later.

At the age of 38, the centre-back is still going but his time in his home country has been blighted by a back injury and row with then-San Lorenzo coach Diego Aguirre, who unsuccessfully tried to offload Coloccini in December 2017 before he himself was ousted.

Steven Taylor

  • Club joined: Portland Timbers
  • Reported transfer fee: Free
  • Games for Newcastle: 268

Following a Newcastle career blighted by injuries, the defender finally departed from St. James’ Park after 13 seasons of senior football for the club to join Major League Soccer side Portland Timbers.

Unfortunately for Taylor, the move didn’t stick – again, due to fitness issues – and he departed MLS to return to England, joining Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich Town in January 2017. After a short spell at Peterborough, Taylor is now back in the A-League with New Zealand club Wellington Phoenix.

Gael Bigirimana

  • Club joined: Coventry City
  • Reported transfer fee: Free
  • Games for Newcastle: 25

At 26, the midfielder still has many years ahead of him in the game, but in the summer of 2016 he took the decision to take a step back to go forward, rejoining Coventry City – the side Newcastle signed the midfielder from in 2013.

He had a solid start to life back at the Ricoh Arena playing under Mark Robins before being sold to Motherwell in June 2017, where he made 57 appearances in total. However, after spells in Scotland and non-league, Bigirimana is currently without a club.

Other transfers and loans:

  • Florian Thauvin: sent away on loan for the 2016/17 season with Marseille, the winger has been in inspired form for the Ligue 1 club, who signed him permanently in the summer of 2017. Thauvin has scored 78 goals across all competitions for the club, although he has missed most of the 2019/20 campaign due to injury.
  • Siem de Jong: ravaged by injury during his time in England, the Dutchman scored six goals and grabbed an assist in his 19 games for PSV back on loan the Eredivisie. He is now with MLS club Cincinnati.
  • Henri Saivet: another prospect from Ligue 1 who returned to France from Newcastle, the 28-year-old Senegal international left on loan for St Etienne and played 35 games, scoring just once. He remains at Newcastle but hasn’t played for the club this season.
  • Adam Armstrong: a hit with Barnsley on loan in the Championship in 2016/17, the 21-year-old striker scored six goals and set up another four in his 34 league appearances. He’s now at Blackburn Rovers, who he joined permanently in 2018
  • Emmanuel Riviere: the French forward played 17 La Liga games on loan at Osasuna but the La Liga side opted against buying him. Ligue 1 side Metz signed him permanently in the summer of 2017 and he left for Serie B side Consenza two years later.
  • Tim Krul: a penalty shootout star of the 2014 World Cup with the Netherlands, Krul endured a mixed career at Newcastle before eventually joining Ajax, where he failed to make much of an impression. He has since played for AZ, Brighton and now Norwich where he has found his footing.