Isaac Hayden asked to leave the club in the summer and said he was unsettled and wanted to be closer to his girlfriend and baby daughter in south Wales.
But Rafa was unwilling to sell the player who could possibly bring in a £10M transfer fee to the club: the manager wasn’t sure he could replace him in the summer transfer window.
And we had already lost Mikel Merino who joined Real Sociedad for £10M earlier in the summer.
Rafa offered Isaac a flexible training schedule; so he could visit his girlfriend and baby frequently.
But it was clear that Isaac in the early season was unsettled, which is not surprising.
Isaac Hayden in action at Sporting Brava
He played at Cardiff and was sent off for a dangerous tackle, with his mind elsewhere.
Isaac came on in the second half on Saturday against the Cherries and helped the team hold onto their 2-1 lead to register our second successive win.
But it appears Isaac is in a much better place now mentally, and that’s good becasue we have 9 games to play through January 2nd of next year.
This is what Rafa has said about the 23-year-old central midfielder:
“He is fine. At the start of the season it was all a bit confused. But he is OK,”
“He played against Cardiff and got sent off, which obviously I was not expecting.”
“After that, with Diame and Shelvey playing well, now Ki has the Premier League experience, too, so it has been difficult for him.”
“Because of the balance of the bench, we have decisions to make all the time about whether we have two midfielders among the substitutes, but he is fine.”
“He was an important player for us over the past two seasons but, because at the beginning of the season everything was a little bit wrong, he needed to settle down.”
“You could see against Cardiff – I’m not blaming him – but he was not focused, and I wasn’t expecting it. “
“He was sent off because, for me, he was very excited and wanted to impress.”
“It was wrong for him but, if he continues to train like he has the last couple of weeks, then he will get chances to play.”
“I was speaking to him and he is fine,” “At the moment he wants to be here, I think so, but we will see in the future.”
“It doesn’t matter, anyway, because he is here until January at the very least – and he has to keep going.”
Isaac has made only three appearances so far this season for the first team but has played a total 70 games for Newcastle with 3 goals and 4 assists since he joined us for £2M from Arsenal in the summer of 2016.
It’s still not clear if Isaac will still want to move away from Newcastle in January or the summer.
But he’s back in form at a crucial time for Newcastle with these games coming up through January 2nd next year:
Mon 26 Nov Burnley vs Newcastle 8:00pm Sat 01 Dec Newcastle vs West Ham 3:00pm Wed 05 Dec Everton vs Newcastle 7:45pm Sun 09 Dec Newcastle vs Wolves 3:00pm Sat 15 Dec Huddersfield vs Newcastle 3:00pm Sat 22 Dec Newcastle vs Fulham 3:00pm Sat 26 Dec Liverpool vs Newcastle 3:00pm Sat 29 Dec Watford vs Newcastle 3:00pm Wed 02 Jan Newcastle vs Man United 8:00pm
How many of those nine games can we win?