Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez already knows he faces another summer of limited transfer budgets and 'sell-to-buy' situations, so the club really can't afford to overlook the free transfer market.
The Magpies have already snapped up one player on a free transfer in Ki Sung-Yeung, but just this week let another slip past their reach.
Mexican international Diego Reyes, who was released by Porto, now looks set to join Fenerbahce in Turkey, after having been heavily linked with interest from Newcastle this past week.
The 25-year-old isn't the greatest of players, but he could have provided a great deal of defensive cover with his versatility and ability. He would have been a squad player, and Benitez needs a few more of those this summer.
Newcastle are selling players to try and generate funds, and released a couple big wage-earners to free up some funds too, but in doing so the squad now looks more than a little bit thin on the ground.
There aren't youth reserves for Newcastle to dip into, either.
Following the end of last season, the Magpies released a vast number of their youth players deemed not good enough to be kept at the club. It left the Under-23 squad and the other youth levels looking quite barren, but was clearly done with the intention of investing and improving.
As with the first team though, that simply hasn't happened.
Benitez is now left with a secondary level of perhaps five or six youth players who he can look to if need be with injuries and fatigue, with so few who are good enough and perhaps close enough to ready to feature in the senior squad.
Those players have been brought along for pre-season, too - not just to learn with the first-team, but also to fill the numbers and cover gaps in the squad.
Youngsters Cal Roberts and Victor Fernandez both got to feature in the pre-season with St. Patrick’s Athletic in Ireland, along with goalscorer Sean Longstaff, but were relegated to playing full back due to a lack of cover - both players are traditionally wingers.
It was a worrying sign, and it shows exactly why Benitez needs to look at the free transfer window even more deeply. The players still left floating around there may not be as good as he'd like, but right now under Mike Ashley's tight-fisted ownership, they're just about the only players the club can afford to sign.
I don't actually mind us signing decent out of contract players like Ki and Reyes on free transfers.— Burnsie ⚽🏴 NUFC 🏳️⚽ (@BenArfaChance) July 19, 2018
What I do object to is players like this being our ONLY targets and NO MONEY being spent AT ALL on targets that hold a monetary value.
Ridiculous way to operate.#NUFC
Yes, Newcastle need quality players who can make the difference in the Premier League if they're going to make it another good year and build on last season's tenth placed finish. However, given the lack of funds, these players will be loanees...if they even arrive before the end of the window, which they very likely may not.
That much is a given.
The Magpies' big money target currently is relegated West Brom striker Salomon Rondon, and the Venezuelan hardly set the division on fire last season.
If that's the kind of precedent being set as to what the club can actually get in, then some of the free transfers around wouldn't be out of place in the current squad.
It also doesn't help that Benitez needs players in a number of positions. A reliable striker is the top priority - but that deal has to be an actual quality signing or it is pointless. However, there are issues elsewhere too, in a lack of cover beyond the first team squad in full back positions, in midfield and even now arguably at centre back once Chancel Mbemba departs.
The club could desperately do with bringing in a number of free transfers to cover these positions on cheap, short-term deals. That way they can serve their purpose, but won't be stuck around leeching away wages in future seasons - as has been the problem in the past for Newcastle.
The only place Newcastle aren't truthfully needing extra bodies is the goalkeeping department, where the Tyneside club find themselves now with five senior goalkeepers.
As for the rest of the squad, it needs serious improvement and bulking out if Newcastle are going to achieve anything next season.
Since Benitez and Newcastle fans both seem to now be resigned to the understanding that the improvement side of things is once again not going to happen, the only thing that remains is bulking out the team to ensure it has necessary cover.
The free transfer market is the way to do that, and simply can't be ignored by the club as much as it currently is being.