Rafael Benitez has challenged record signing Miguel Almiron to fulfil his potential in the Premier League after completing his move to Newcastle.
The 24-year-old Paraguay international has joined the club on a five and a half-year deal for an undisclosed fee, believed to be in the region of £21million, and has been handed the number 24 shirt.
Almiron, who is unlikely to make his debut at Tottenham on Saturday due to awaiting his work permit, is now the Magpies’ most expensive acquisition after owner Mike Ashley finally sanctioned a purchase costing in excess of the £16million then chairman Freddy Shepherd paid to lure Michael Owen to Tyneside from Real Madrid in 2005.
A delighted Benitez, who had been desperate to recruit a number 10 for some time, said: “We were following Miguel Almiron for a while and we saw a player with some pace in attack who can play behind the striker. We have someone who can score goals and give assists.
“We know that MLS is a different challenge to the Premier League, but he has the potential to do what we are expecting and what we need.
“From talking to the lad, you can tell that he is really focused and wants to do well. He wants to be successful and he wants to help the team, to score goals and give assists if it is possible.
“His impact in MLS has been really good – he’s been one of the best players this year – and hopefully he can give us more competition and more quality in the final third.
“I am pleased that the hard work behind the scenes has ended positively and I thank everyone for their efforts.”
Press Association Sport understands Ashley, who has come under refreshed fire from disgruntled supporters in recent weeks, played a prominent role in pushing through the deal, which was brokered by managing director Lee Charnley and head of recruitment Steve Nickson.
Almiron, who began his career with Cerro Poteno in his native Paraguay before heading for the United States via Argentinian side Atletico Lanus, was twice named in the MLS Best XI during his time in America.
He told NUFC TV: “I’m very happy and eager to start and to meet my new team-mates. The league is very competitive, this is a historic club, and Rafa Benitez himself were the main reasons why I am here now.
“I think it is a great responsibility, something beautiful for me, and I will try to offer the best I can to repay the trust the club put in me.”
Almiron’s arrival was confirmed hours after that of full-back Antonio Barreca, who has joined the club on loan from Monaco until the end of the season with an option to make the move permanent.
Whether the deadline day activity will be enough to persuade Benitez to extend his stay at St James’ Park – he is out of contract at the end of the season – remains to be seen, with the 58-year-old Spaniard seeking assurances over the club’s ambition.
Ashley’s investment is the clearest indication yet that his hopes of selling the club are at an end, in the short-term at least.