NEWCASTLE United’s controversial takeover by the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund will be tested soon when the transfer market opens again. Already, predictions have been made about who they might sign and how much they will have available to spend in one window.
Newcastle are in dire straits and have to strengthen their team if they are to avoid relegation, but can they get the required quality they need to clamber out of danger, or will the Saudi regime have to begin its reconstruction job from the second tier of the English game?
January windows don’t always work out well and the players available are often not the most coveted around. Furthermore, remoulding a team in January does not allow much time for new talent to gel. The most pragmatic way for Newcastle may be to bring in short-term, high-quality players in order to stave off relegation. Then, with that mission completed, start to acquire the level of player that can start to make them into a team challenging for honours. The trouble is, managers are rarely given the time they need, but even a low profile prize will seem like achievement given the club’s 50-plus years without a glimpse of silverware.
As it stands, Newcastle look bound for the drop, which would be an inauspicious start to the Public Investment Fund’s (PIF) reign in the north-east. Players like Sven Botman (21), Jesse Lingard (29), Aaron Ramsey (30), Kieran Trippier (31), Dele Alli (25), Philippe Coutinho (29), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (32), James Tarkowski (29) and Kieran Tierney (24) have all been linked to Newcastle. According to CIES Football Observatory, the value of this group of players would come to around € 200 million, but the problem is Newcastle will find the market will expect them to pay more than they need to given the size of their wallet.
While they are struggling at the foot of the Premier League table, Newcastle may find it hard to attract premium players that can pull them away from danger. And should the worst case scenario happen, the sort of star names the fans are longing for will be reluctant to play in the Championship. Newcastle need so many new players in order to make them a contender for something other than a trip through the trapdoor.
Cash will be available, but the Saudi Arabian fund will not be able to “do a Chelsea” and go crazy in the market like Roman Abramovich did in his first two or three years at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea and Manchester City seemed to have no constraints when they became wealthy overnight, but the consequences of their behaviour are the many restrictions clubs now have. The profit & sustainability rules mean Newcastle will have to work within strict boundaries, but that could still mean a war chest of up to € 500 million. Moreover, the new rules around sponsorship are deliberately designed to prevent inflated investment that exceeds “fair market value”, so there’s another hurdle.
Not that money is any guarantee of success, but it does go a long way towards elevating a club to the upper quartile of the Premier. Not every club is proficient in the market – for all Chelsea’s success since Abramovich took over, some of their signings have not worked out as planned – Fernando Torres (a January signing) was not a rip-roaring success, and players like Mateja Kežman, Hernán Crespo, Adrian Mutu, Andriy Shevchenko and Álvaro Morata proved to be quite underwhelming.
In more recent years, Everton under Farhad Moshiri have had a poor return on their investment in players and remember how careless Tottenham were with the proceeds of the Gareth Bale sale to Real Madrid? Whoever controls player recruitment – and the club is looking to hire a sporting director very soon – will have to have a clear strategy that looks beyond the next few months. They had hoped to secure Liverpool’s highly-rated Michael Edwards, but he turned down their approach.
The fact is, Newcastle’s substantial funds will rebuild their team, but they may still find they trail the Premier’s elite clubs by some distance. They may be rich now, accounting for 83% of Premier League clubs’ overall owner wealth, but PIF cannot simply pump Newcastle full of money.
The current situation is dire, but Newcastle can still get out of danger, but they must start winning consistently. Only one win in 16 games is a poor show and their away record is undoubtedly relegation form. Both Chelsea and Manchester City took time to move from under-achievers to global super clubs, so Newcastle United and their fans may have to be more patient than they care to be at this particular time. Dynasties are not built in one (or two) transfer windows. However, from a financial perspective, Newcastle can probably afford to make mistakes in the forthcoming window, but whoever they sign, they need to get it right if they are to remain in the Premier.