Man Utd prove cash is no guarantee of success as Toon face bigger challenges than Chelsea or Man City after their buyouts
There is an aspect to the Newcastle United takeover which saddens me; the only way for a club of such stature to have any chance of winning is to be bought by billionaires.
The St James’ Park buy-out has specific criticism attached to it due to the Saudi Arabian owners, but let’s not shy away from the truth. Inequality through the football pyramid has erased hope for millions of fans who have come to realise they need mega-rich buyers to save their club and re-energise the community around it.
Football’s ceaseless global dash for cash – which the English game encouraged as much as any when the Premier League was created – is responsible for that, not Newcastle United.
Predictably, it is reported the other 19 Premier League clubs held a meeting to express concerns about the takeover. What hypocrisy, especially among the six who led the European Super League plan.
There are double-standards when it comes to doubting the cleanliness of certain revenue sources, and turning a blind eye to the legitimacy of others.
Although some reservations are sincere and understandable, you cannot help conclude plenty more are rooted in the envy of certain Premier League rivals.
Many of those questioning Newcastle for embracing a game-changing deal will be offering the same justification for it if they ever receive such a bonanza, irrespective of its origin.
From a solely footballing perspective, I am pleased Newcastle’s fans can dream again. Amid that excitement, the hard work now begins.
No matter how much cash is injected into the club, for Newcastle to win the title by 2030 would be an amazing feat. In many respects, it will be harder for Newcastle than it was for Manchester City.
There is plenty for them to learn and take encouragement from what happened after the buy-outs at City, Chelsea and Paris St-Germain.
There are also grounds for caution and patience because the circumstances facing Newcastle are different.
There is no comparison with the Roman Abramovich revolution at Stamford Bridge in 2003. Chelsea won the Premier League title within two years, but were already Champions League qualifiers luring world-class players and renowned managers.
Pre-Abramovich, they were winning the FA Cup with players of the calibre of Gianfranco Zola, Ruud Gullit and Marcel Desailly attracted to living and working in London. The foundations were there to take the next step, especially as they were immediately able to outspend Manchester United and Arsenal, who were at that time the only realistic title challengers.
In 2008, City had already experienced one overseas takeover before Abu Dhabi and were investing big on players and managers, albeit without success. Their recent history then was more like Newcastle’s, but the standards at the top of domestic football have risen massively since the Sergio Aguero winner in 2012, or going further back to when Jack Walker changed the face of English football by bankrolling Blackburn Rovers’ rise from the football league to the 1995 Premier League champions.
At the moment, to win the Premier League you not only have to be the best in England, but arguably the best team in the world.
Chelsea and City joined the elite by paying a premium on transfer fees and salaries. Chelsea did not have Financial Fair Play (FFP) to deal with during their first spending sprees. In recent times, Everton have had the money thanks to majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri and their Russian benefactor, Alisher Usmanov, but limits on how much they can spend mean they are still outside the top six.
Newcastle must circumnavigate the FFP rules, probably by sponsoring themselves like Manchester City.
Only by spending enormous sums can they tempt players away from the traditional Champions League hotspots of London, Manchester and Anfield. The most coveted stars will only join once they see proof of imminent success.
It’s a fantasy to expect Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland to join Newcastle in the next two or three years. They would never surrender Champions League football, and all the potential goalscoring records in that competition they are chasing, for a long-term project. Yes, money talks, but there are many clubs already established in the elite competition who will pay the biggest bucks for their services.
Even a much-wanted English player such as Declan Rice would hesitate before being tempted to leave West Ham for Newcastle at the end of this season. Why? Because no matter how much they spend in January, Newcastle are 18 months away from being where West Ham are today, competing in Europe and establishing themselves in the top six. Rice will soon be looking up for the next step in his career and will have a choice of top-four clubs. It will take a while for Newcastle to reach that level.
Realistically, the initial Newcastle plan must be to target young, hungry players outside the top four who want to commit to pioneering the north-east renaissance.
When the Saudi Arabians study the last 10 years of English football, they will know there is more to success than spending millions on new players. Manchester United have splashed out a billion since Alex Ferguson retired and are into their ninth season without the Premier League title. They are the most obvious example that a football club cannot guarantee titles by being the biggest spenders. They must have the right people within the organisation spending it.
Smart recruitment choices must be made, especially as agents start seeing commission fees and pushing their clients towards St James’ Park, and clubs eye an opportunity to offload their deadwood for inflated prices. Money will take the club further than would otherwise have been possible, ensuring Newcastle first remove any possibility of being sucked into relegation battles – as has been too often the case in their recent history – then challenge for the European places, and ultimately become regular Champions League participants.
From there, the chance of winning the title becomes more real, but still tough to fulfil in a league with so many wealthy and established competitors.
Newcastle rising to the top quickly will make the Premier League a more riveting watch. The more of our biggest clubs that can genuinely compete, the better. It’s a shame others must pray for their own sugar daddy in order to look forward to a similar reawakening.
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