Newcastle United: Dirty money, bright future?

October 7, 2021, will go down in the history of the city of Newcastle that their beloved football club changed forever.

A consortium led by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia purchased the club from the unpopular Mike Ashley.

For over a decade, Newcastle United was under the control of Ashley. The club was arguably not doing terribly in the league, with the majority of his Premier League finishes coming in the lower part of mid-table. Even finishing 5th in the 2011/12 season. However, fans were rightly unhappy with the way things were being run at the club and demanded change.

The Public Investment Fund is estimated to have assets of at least £320 billion, which has made Newcastle the richest club in world football by a country mile. For news that would have seemed like a dream for many Geordies, has not been received so kindly by others. All 19 other Premier League clubs condemned the takeover, stating that it has damaged the reputation of the league. This is due to the long list of atrocities the Saudi state are alleged to have committed. From civil rights abuses to murder, it appears their hands are very bloody and that the takeover is nothing more than another case of ‘sportswashing’. So, let’s take a look at realistically how long it could take for the club to become a top-four power in the Premier League now that they are backed by the richest owners in football history.

Going back to 2008, Manchester City (who also now happen to be Newcastle’s closest rivals in terms of finances at £23 billion) were taken over by Sheikh Mansour, they were a mid-table club at the time. Sound familiar? It took City two years to win their first trophy under new ownership when they won the FA Cup in 2011. This set the tone of success at the club, as they went on to win their first Premier League title the year after. Cup success followed by a league title could be a similar formula Newcastle could aim to replicate further down the line.

Not long after being taken over by Mansour, City made a marquee signing in Robinho from Real Madrid for a then world-record £32.5 million. This was a sign of things to come as the summer after they invested heavily again, spending over £100 million to bring in the likes of Gareth Barry, Carlos Tevez and Joleon Lescott. I think we see Newcastle doing similar things.

Obviously, the PIF consortium took over the club outside of any transfer window, so were not able to arrive with a bang, but with the January transfer window looming we can definitely expect to see a Robinho-esque signing for the Magpies in that window. Then the summer transfer window after that will not be one to miss as Newcastle will start to fully assemble their squad.

Firstly, the club will need to decide who will be taking charge of the richest club in football history, with Steve Bruce being sacked. Paulo Fonseca is looking likely, but nothing is concrete yet. Whoever takes over at St James Park does not have an easy task on their hands though, as Newcastle are currently involved in a relegation battle with a squad that arguably isn’t strong enough to stay in the league. Yes, they have such talents as Allan Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson, but there are some serious holes in the squad.

Newcastle at the moment have just enough talent and experience in the squad to stay in the league, but definitely not enough to reach that next level. The best area to start is their defence, as currently, they have conceded the second-most goals in the league. A good option for the Magpies could be James Tarkowski. The Burnley centre-back appears to be riding out his contract and will be available for a cut-price fee or even for free in the summer. His signing would strengthen a weak position for Newcastle and would provide years of Premier League experience whilst still being in his prime. It’s not quite a marquee signing like Robinho was for City but would be a very pragmatic and impressive one nonetheless. On the subject of centre-backs, Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli has been linked but whether or not the world-class defender would choose a potential mid-table finish on Tyneside over a charge for the Serie A title in Naples is food for thought.

Another signing the Magpies have been linked with is a South American skilful winger for a record-breaking fee, almost a carbon copy of what the Robinho deal was to Manchester City back in 2008. That player is the Colombian winger Luis Diaz, who currently struts his stuff for Porto. Reports in Portugal suggest that Newcastle are willing to activate his £68 million release clause, which would smash their transfer record. Diaz has impressed this year with his performances. The tricky winger has bagged six goals and an assist in nine games for the side while also impressing on international duty. The thought of him and Saint-Maximin operating on either wing must be a scary one for Premier League defenders.

Callum Wilson is a solid goal-scoring option for the club at the moment but considering his extensive injury history I just can’t see him leading the line for a potential top-four side. So, expect to see Newcastle splashing out on a new striker. There were always going to be shouts of Newcastle going for Erling Haaland as he will soon be available for as little as 70 million euros. Though realistically the Norweigan will want to sign for an already established and successful project as he is undisputedly one of the best strikers in the world. Alexandre Lacazette is primed to leave Arsenal and again would provide a good combination of experience and talent. Inter’s Lautaro Martinez is another interesting option, the Argentinian is interested in a Premier League move and has an uncertain future in Milan. He could certainly be the one player to headline the start of a new era on Tyneside, although he would not be available on the cheap. Not that that would be a problem for Newcastle of course.

As aforementioned, it took Manchester City four years to win their first Premier League title after their takeover. With the current state of the Premier League and Newcastle’s squad I think that a Premier League title in four years would be very ambitious, but this is football, after all, anything can happen. If the consortium is serious about investing in the club and spending their seemingly endless supply of money wisely then who knows, maybe Geordies should start getting used to European away days again. It would be a safe bet to say that Newcastle should be a top-four power by the end of this decade if the club is operated properly. A mixture of Premier League experience, world-class talent and a competent manager should be enough to see the sleeping Geordie giants awaken.

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