Newcastle United became the world’s richest club when Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) completed a £300 million takeover earlier this month. The PIF has a collective wealth of £320 billion, which dwarfs the financial clout of clubs like Man City, PSG and Chelsea.
Magpies fans are now daring to dream of glory. They have partied in the streets of Newcastle, sporting Saudi headdresses, celebrating the departure of the loathed Mike Ashley and anticipating a return to the business end of the Premier League table.
However, they quickly came crashing down to earth at the weekend. A 3-2 home defeat to Tottenham left the Magpies marooned in 19th place, with zero wins, three draws and five losses from eight games thus far. Can the new owners turn things around, or will Newcastle be the richest team in the Championship next season?
Painfully Aware of the Relegation Issue
Amanda Staveley, who led the Saudi-backed takeover consortium via her firm, PCP Capital Partners, has vowed to transform Newcastle into a club that can challenge for trophies. However, she warned that it will be a gradual process.
“We’re not going to be winning the Premier League just yet, and it’s going to take some time to build the infrastructure at all levels to allow us to challenge for trophies,” said Staveley.
She added: “We’re obviously painfully aware of the relegation issue and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure the club is not relegated.”
That is obviously the most immediate priority. Newcastle were relegated twice during Ashley’s controversial reign, and they arguably have an even worse squad this time around. The only summer signing was Joe Willock, who had spent the second half of last season on loan at the club, and that chronic lack of investment has plunged Newcastle into jeopardy.
The new owners cannot start splashing the cash until the January transfer window opens, so the goal will be to ensure the team is not too far adrift by that point.
Search Begins for Bruce’s Successor
Newcastle are currently fourth in the betting to be relegated, behind only Norwich, Watford and Burnley. They are clear underdogs in the fixed odds betting for their upcoming games against Crystal Palace and Chelsea, so they are unlikely to claw their way out of danger any time soon.
The first port of call wwas to remove Steve Bruce as manager. The fans never warmed to him, and his record at the club was underwhelming, even when you account for the limited resources at his disposal, so it was no surprise to see him go.
The Magpies have been linked with Brendan Rodgers, Steven Gerrard, Unai Emery and Jose Mourinho, but those targets look a little unrealistic in the short-term.
Former Roma manager Paulo Fonseca is the current favourite to replace Bruce, followed by ex-Borussia Dortmund boss Lucien Favre and Eddie Howe.
Initial Expectations Must be Tempered
Newcastle should be able to get out of trouble if they invest wisely in January. Former Crystal Palace owner Simon Jordan claimed that the new owners could invest £500 million on bolstering the squad without troubling Financial Fair Play regulations, such was the frugality of the previous era under Ashley’s stewardship.
Some Newcastle fans expect the club to start signing superstars immediately. After Karim Benzema banged in a screamer for France in the UEFA Nations League, supporters lit up Twitter by demanding the club move for him.
Once again, that is unrealistic. Players will not immediately go from chasing titles to a Premier League relegation scrap. You need to build brick by brick.
Yet there are still plenty of above average players that Newcastle could sign in January: Jesse Lingard, James Tarkowski, Philippe Coutinho, Wilfried Zaha, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey, Alexandre Lacazette, Donny van de Beek, Dean Henderson. Just three or four of those players could lift Newcastle out of the relegation zone by the end of the season, playing alongside talented stars like Allan Saint-Maximin, Callum Wilson, Willock and Miguel Almirón.
Following the Man City Blueprint
If Newcastle manage to beat the drop, and they really should if they invest correctly in January, they could target a top eight finish next season, before mounting a serious title challenge in 2022/23.
Chelsea won the Premier League within two seasons after Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003, but the landscape is different now. Chelsea and Man City are spending heavily, while the deep pockets of Manchester United and Liverpool make the Premier League the most competitive in the world.
Man City’s Abu Dhabi owners made a splash by signing Robinho from under Chelsea’s noses after purchasing the club in 2008, but it took four years for them to win the title. They started out by singing the likes of Jo, Nigel de Jong, Craig Bellamy, Wayne Bridge, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Emmanuel Adebayor, Roque Santa Cruz and Kolo Touré. It took a couple of years before they started buying world-class players like Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Edin Dzeko.
The Premier League is even more competitive now, but Newcastle should be challenging at the top of the table in a few years. They need to invest in improving the training facilities, the youth academy and bringing in the right executives. Pep Guardiola deservedly takes much of the credit for Man City’s successes in recent years, but City’s initial masterstroke was appointing former Barcelona execs Txiki Berigstain and Ferran Soriano to make the club a force off the pitch.
If Newcastle get that right, they can start attracting superstars. These are certainly heady times for Magpies fans, and their club appears poised for a strong future, but they need to be patient and to steel themselves for a relegation battle first.