CRAIG HOPE: Canny Newcastle are refusing to be held to ransom… the richest club in the world are building for the long term and won’t pay silly money for transfer targets
- Newcastle are refusing to be held ransom over player transfer fees this summer
- Eddie Howe’s side have spent shrewdly as they build for a long-term future
- Howe has underlined that it is not an issue of being able to afford to sign players
- Financial Fair Play prevents a side from making losses of £105m over three years
- The Magpies can make £30m-£40m if they secure Europa League qualification
With pockets deeper than the oil fields from which they drill their black gold, Newcastle United’s Saudi Arabian owners should, logic dictates, be able to afford the £50million or so it would take to sign Leicester City’s James Maddison.
Affordability, though, is not the issue. Profit and Sustainability, as the Premier League call their spending rules, is the limiting factor. With losses capped at £105m over three years, there are well-defined restrictions on what the club can invest in players.
Manager Eddie Howe warned as much in May and said last week, ‘I hope you realise now I was telling the truth’, as he again outlined the modest budget he has.
Eddie Howe’s side will not be held to ransom over transfer fees after becoming the world’s richest club
‘Financial Fair Play impacts us and will continue to do so for a number of years,’ he said. ‘We haven’t got the free rein that has been perceived within the media, that we can go and sign who we want and pay extortionate fees and wages.’
There is, of course, scope to spend more — the Premier League would not step in and bar them from signing any player — and they could front-load their rolling three-year allowance, banking on increased revenue in that period.
Ex-Brighton defender Dan Burn cost the club £13million
But the Saudi-backed owners, led in the UK by Amanda Staveley, Mehrdad Ghodoussi and Jamie Reuben, along with sporting director Dan Ashworth and Howe, are united in their resolve to only spend the right amount on the right player at the right time. They want the next Neymar, not the overpriced, declining, real thing.
In that regard, they have got their recruitment spot on so far, barely wasting a penny of the £150m invested in seven players. In six months, that is not an insignificant sum, either.
Still, though, debate rages between supporters as to why the ‘richest club in the world’ are said to have a maximum of £40m left to invest this summer. Is it all a clever tactic to kid people?
Kieran Maguire, a finance lecturer and host of The Price of Football podcast, says not.
‘They’re trying not to max out on FFP in the first year of ownership,’ he tells Sportsmail. ‘Then, they would have no leeway, nowhere to go in 2023 and 2024. They have seen the mess at Everton, which is a stark reminder of what can happen if you spend money badly. What Newcastle need to do now is grow their revenues, allowing them to incrementally spend more on transfers.’
Nick Pope joined the Magpies this summer following relegation with Burnley last season
Ashworth’s arrival, and that of chief executive Darren Eales, should see a big improvement in off-the-field operations at a club which, pre-takeover, was existing to exist.
‘Dan Ashworth is the best signing they have made,’ says Maguire. ‘He is very good at having a handle on boardroom expectation and what is realistic from a football perspective and dealing with the manager.
‘His advice to Amanda Staveley and Co will be, “Don’t be like a lottery winner who goes and blows the lot and then, a year later, looks at all of their trinkets and realises they don’t like a lot of them”.’
To be fair to the new owners, they had already subscribed to that approach.
Kieran Trippier (left) was the club’s first signing after the takeover and Matt Targett (right) joined this summer having spent time on loan from Aston Villa last season
They will also not go beyond their value of a player — hence the £40m second offer for Maddison — and in assembling a back five of Nick Pope, Kieran Trippier, Sven Botman, Dan Burn and Matt Targett for the same £80m that Manchester United paid for Harry Maguire, they have shown transfer market savvy.
‘If they have their own perception of what a player is worth, then they’re right to stick to it,’ says Maguire. ‘Newcastle are also conscious that it’s not just about Maddison. If they are seen to pay £50m, then the next player they sign, there will be a Newcastle premium.
Long-term target Sven Botman was another player to arrive in 2022 for £32m from Lille
‘They are keen to be seen to be running the club on an even keel, not going down the same route as Chelsea and Manchester City in the early days of their ownerships. Both of those were also before FFP, they could make mistakes and the owner would just write out another cheque — Newcastle can’t do that.’
So, what needs to change?
‘They have done very well so far,’ says Maguire. ‘They stayed in the Premier League, which was not guaranteed. But it has to be an evolutionary path with the ambition, first of all, of getting into the Europa League. They can make £30-40m from that alone.
‘From there, it is the Champions League. But there isn’t a quick fix because of FFP, which was created to prevent another Manchester City or Chelsea.
‘Commercial revenue is the one area they have most control over and the biggest scope for improvement. When Mike Ashley bought the club in 2007, it was £26m. By 2019, it was £28m. That is poor. They also need a better player development and trading model — like Chelsea and City — and to start making money for themselves. But this takes time.’
When Staveley arrived, she said Newcastle wanted to win the Premier League within five to 10 years. Given everything, is that remotely possible?
Newcastle will not go beyond their own valuations – hence their £40m bid for James Maddison
‘In 10 years, yes,’ says Maguire. ‘In five years, that’s a stiff challenge, although not insurmountable if they can drastically increase their commercial income, become a regular European club and continue to make the right buys.
‘This isn’t just about money, it’s about the right decisions at the right times. They have hit it out of the park in terms of recruitment so far. But you only need a couple to set you back — look at (Romelu) Lukaku, Kepa (Arrizabalaga) and (Timo) Werner at Chelsea. Newcastle can’t afford to make those mistakes on their journey.’
Howe has adopted the phrase ‘evolution not revolution’ and Newcastle are sticking to it. In truth, they have little choice.