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Joelinton signs new contract at Newcastle

Last season, when Newcastle United qualified for the Champions League, Brazilian midfielder Joelinton played 32 league games, missing just six.

Hollywood might call his turnaround on Tyneside too idealistic. The 27-year-old, who signed a new contract on Thursday, joined in 2019 as a striker, costing £40m from Hoffenheim; a club record fee at the time. While plenty of what happened in his first two seasons at St James’ Park was not his fault; such as the exit of Rafael Benitez and subsequent firing of Steve Bruce, and the team’s inability to play to his strengths, he became a rather unfortunate embodiment of the misery under owner Mike Ashley. Everything about his move started to look ill-thought out; yet, his attitude and effort never wavered once, and for that reason he kept most of the fans onside even if they bemoaned his performances.

When the Saudi Arabian-backed takeover of the club lifted the dark clouds in October 2021, Joelinton’s luck began to change. Eddie Howe replaced Bruce and, while one rather unexpected development some weeks later would change everything, he started well instantly, playing in a more suitable position on the left of a front three and generally looking like the world had been lifted from his shoulders. All things considered, it wasn’t a surprise; after initially missing out on the job to Unai Emery, who later turned it down, Howe was appointed on the strength of his interview, which included detailed appraisals of the squad he would inherit. Joelinton’s name featured prominently.

Against Norwich in what looked like a relegation six-pointer the following December, with Newcastle down to 10 men after a Ciaran Clark red card, Joelinton moved back into midfield. His performance was so good, playing to his strengths – physicality, energy and power – that he unwittingly found his calling. From that moment, he went from having an uncertain future at the club with the richest owners in world football, to becoming a vital cog in a very efficient machine. Now it is hard to imagine Newcastle without Joelinton.

Well, actually, it isn’t. Last season, with Joelinton a near ever-present, Newcastle finished fourth in the Premier League with a brand of football with which they became synonymous, centring on high, aggressive pressing, powerful transitions and physically upsetting the opposition. Everything Joelinton offers.

This season, he’s been one of many hampered by injury troubles, playing just 16 league games. He’s been out since January with a calf problem and isn’t expected back until May at the earliest. To make matters worse, Joe Willock, his partner in crime when it came to setting a frenetic pace in midfield last season, was out for months before that, and hasn’t looked fully fit since he came back into the team. Newcastle rode the crest of a wave last season, spurred on by almost unlimited momentum. It is as if they’ve had to pay that price this year, and missing both Joelinton and Willock has been a huge factor in them battling to avoid mid table mediocrity and sneak into a lesser European competition.

That said, the fact they are still very much in the hunt, despite an absentee list that has pretty much included everybody in the squad at one stage, is a true testament to the foundations Howe has put in place.

For a while, it looked like he may depart the club. There was an impasse over a new contract, and in January, Howe admitted he didn’t know what the future held.

“I’m not a fortune-teller and I certainly hope that is not the case. There is a possibility that could be the case, but I don’t know,” he said.

Joelinton wanted to be among the club’s top earners, and rightly so. He has become a vital member of the squad, and losing him would have only caused another headache for a club who are trying to play by the Profit and Sustainability rules. This is the right decision for everyone involved.

“I love playing for the club. I love the club, I love the fans,” Joelinton said. “We had a lot of discussions and I always wanted to be here. I’m glad to continue and I hope to have success in the years to come.”

There aren’t many more important players at Newcastle, and as they approach a crossroads in their drive to grow and improve, Joelinton’s commitment is an immense positive. Having been viewed as a flop a few years ago, few are more deserving of this recognition.

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