Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

It's Up to Rafa to Get Perez Back to Heights of Past

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

It's Up to Rafa to Get Perez Back to Heights of Past

Article excerpt

Byline: THE JOURNAL WEDNESDAY, MARCH 30, 2016 CHRIS WAUGH @chrisdhwaugh THE JOURNAL WEDNESDAY, MARCH 30, 2016 CHRIS WAUGH @chrisdhwaugh

LESS than two months ago, when Newcastle United announced that Ayoze Perez had extended his contract through until 2021, this correspondent wrote how that could arguably have been the Magpies' best piece of business during the January window.

Since the day he signed that new deal on February 1, the 22-year-old's form and influence has dwindled.

(The cynics among you may argue it was not a signing but the day Newcastle announced the extended contract, as it was something that it is understood had been agreed for a number of weeks).

Only one goal against AFC Bournemouth - admittedly a superbly-take one - and no assists have followed in his six appearances since, and he was even dropped during the final throes of Steve McClaren's reign.

The deal was announced on deadline day, when only Seydou Doumbia's ill-fated loan signing was also confirmed, and the club-record bid for Saido Berahino was doomed to fail.

It was an undoubted positive, make no mistake about it.

The likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United have cast flirtatious glances in Perez's direction. If nothing else, tying the Spaniard down to a long-term deal has protected United's asset; if a big club does come in with a bid for Perez, Newcastle will now be able to drive the hard bargain they so desire for one of their prized assets.

Yet there still remains a nagging doubt over Perez.

His endeavour and work ethic are without query, as is his unique talent - which is partially why he is so adored by the Toon faithful - but there are some question marks over what his best position is.

McClaren certainly harboured them privately, if he never said so much plainly in public.

Speaking on the day Perez's new deal was announced, McClaren said of the Spaniard: "He has surprised me in terms of his ability.

"He can change a game, win a game and has scored some important goals for us this season. He has been a big plus.

"There is a lot more to come from Ayoze and that will happen in a Newcastle United shirt. …

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