Brentford away. The Magpies are drawing 1-1 and arguably need the 3 points. Ayoze Perez, who finds himself in a pocket of space down the left wing, picks up the ball and plays a sublime outside of the boot cross into Daryl Murphy who converts by nodding it in, returning Newcastle to the top of the Championship.
The Spaniard clearly has an abundance of talent and this vital assist was a clear reminder of that; however, he is yet to fully reach his potential on Tyneside. Joining in 2014 from CD Tenerife, Perez seemed to quickly settle in at St. James’s park. He managed to net 7 goals in his first season, including his dazzling back heel finish that saw Newcastle beat West Brom 2-0 at the Hawthorns. With the team struggling under a clueless Steve McClaren the season later, his form dipped and his confidence lowered, the starlet was losing his way.
As games came thick and fast and the pressure for points increased in the Premier League, he lost his place in the team and was limited to appearances from the bench. Fans pondered what position would bring out the best in him; he had almost lost his identity. Was Perez a striker, a number 10 or a left winger? Newcastle were relegated and further questions’ were asked, was a luxury player like himself equipped for the fight of England’s second division? Perez was to stay and he made all the right noises in the summer stating to the local press he wanted to help return Newcastle to where they belong. If anyone was to nurture his talent, it would surely be fellow Spaniard Rafa Benitez.
Often deployed in the number 10 role this season, Ayoze has scored 6 goals in 23 appearances, with 9 of them off the bench. There are still question marks on what position suits him best but one thing that is on his side though is certainly time; he’s still quite young at 23 year’s old. When he first joined he was meant for the Under-23 squad, however, his obvious talent has demanded a first team place.
Under the further guidance of Benitez, this Championship season could yet be the making of him. It will be certainly interesting to track his progress and fans will be hoping he can consistently provide quality on the pitch in the future and live up to his potential. If not, United and Perez may part ways, with the familiar feel of what could have been?
Feature Image credit: Martin Le Roy