The curious case of Joselu’s time at Newcastle United and his much deserved rise to international glory
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As England triumphed against Italy and Ukraine to get their Euro 2024 qualifiers off to the perfect start, Spain were showing just how tricky international football can be. Having defeated Norway 3-0 in their first game, they became unstuck against Scotland, losing 2-0 courtesy of a Scott McTominay double.
It was a disappointing night for Spain who will have been hoping to build on their impressive win over Norway - a win that was sealed thanks to a quick-fire brace from former Newcastle United striker Joselu. Joselu netted twice within five minutes of his debut for his country, one that the 31-year-old had to work hard to earn.
Many Newcastle supporters will undoubtedly be reading this with memories of his time on Tyneside, a spell that resulted in just seven goals in 52 appearances in all competitions, unable to compute that the striker they saw for two seasons is now making waves on the international stage. And they would be right.
Joselu’s time at Newcastle was largely a struggle, but his form back in La Liga has suggested that this may not have entirely been his fault. Brought in by Rafa Benitez ahead of their return to the top-flight, Joselu often cut a lonely figure up-front during his time at the club.
It wasn’t until the final few months of his time in charge that Newcastle played genuinely attacking football under Benitez with the trio of Miguel Almiron, Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez clicking into gear at the end of the 2018/19 season. Any striker was likely to struggle in the way Benitez set his teams up on Tyneside, Joselu was just the unfortunate casualty of this system.
Aleksandar Mitrovic failed to prove his worth to the side, as did Dwight Gayle once his goals led the Magpies to promotion from the Championship. Joselu was never really first-choice, but he was someone Benitez relied on to do the work he needed his strikers to do.
A lack of confidence also played a major part in the Spaniard’s disappointing time at the club, with a missed penalty against Burnley in January 2018 summarising his whole career in the north east. Joselu is probably the prime example of just what confidence, or a lack of, can do to a striker.
Back in La Liga, Joselu has 48 goals in the four seasons since leaving Newcastle with 12 of those coming in just 23 games for Espanyol this season. Having turned 33 this week, it’s unlikely that Joselu will have too many more appearances for his country in his locker, but his call-up this time around was richly deserved and something that never would have happened if he had stuck around at Newcastle.
His time on Tyneside won’t be remembered too well by supporters, nor will Joselu look back too favourably on those two years of his career. However, he is a great case study on how a player can flourish when he is the right fit for a club and proof that you should never write off a player’s career too soon.