It’s been 64 years, since Newcastle United last won a major trophy. But the traditional club from the northeast of England could be about to fight for honours again in the near future. That’s if they are indeed, as reports suggest, taken over by the super-rich Bin Zayed Group from the UAE. Some fans imagine a golden future, some react with amusement. But if the sale of the club by Mike Ashley is completed, the Bin Zayed Group will almost certainly not be content with a mid-table finish or relegation fights in the future – and therefore they will invest. That could change the whole Premier League landscape yet again.
Man City and PSG are examples of takeover power from the Middle East
The riches of Manchester City and PSG, both back-to-back champions in their respective countries and having some of the planet’s best players in their ranks, seem to be nearly immeasurable at times. Yet, before these clubs were taken over by the Abu Dhabi United Group Investment & Development Limited or Qatar Sports Investments, with Mansour and Al-Khelaifi behind those groups, they were barely top-class. In 2007, City failed to score a goal at home for five months, nearly ending up being relegated. PSG on the other hand were extremely close to relegation as well in 2008, only confirming their ongoing Ligue 1 status on the final day of that season.
All that is so very different now. And Newcastle United, only back in the top flight since 2017, could experience something similiar, who knows. Owner Mike Ashley, who is widely disliked, could finally be selling the club. According to a statement from the Bin Zayed Group, attained by the Newcastle Chronicle, the deal is as good as done as an agreement over a 350 million pound transaction is apprently in place.
Terms have been agreed between us and Mike Ashley; these terms have been reflected in a document, signed by both parties, which has been forwarded to the Premier League. The proof of funds statement was forwarded to Mike Ashley’s lawyers on 17 April 2019. The so called fit-and-proper Premier League process is a standard procedure which will take time, and we are doing all we can to assist the Premier League during this process. We feel the need to clarify this point in order for the fans and the general public to understand the timelines.
Sheikh Khaled Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is behind the Bin Zayed Group, is a member of the Al Nahyan ruling family of the emirate of Abu Dhabi. He also is a billionaire, obviously, and a cousin of the Man City owner Sheik Mansour. Talksport estimates his net worth to be around 118 billion pounds. As of now, Newcastle United haven’t commented on the possible takeover, but it looks very likely at the moment. But what would it mean for the football ecosystem in the UK?
No more top 6?
The Premier League has had an established top six for years now: Tottenham Hotspur, FC Liverpool, FC Chelsea, Arsenal London, Manchester United and Manchester City. Unless miraculous things happen, just like in 2016, when Leicester won the league, those teams take up the places in the top four and top six. Some argue that Man City and Chelsea have bought their way in, but in thruth all these clubs have big amounts of money to spend, not least due to their owners or merchandising machines. Other clubs have tried to break into that circle and invested heavily, just look at Everton. But that hasn’t worked too well hitherto.
If Newcastle United are bought for 350 million pounds, only the Man United takeover by the Glazer family will have been more expensive in the Premier League. And the Magpies could be set for a major overhaul in the coming years in terms of staff, management and players. The club would probably like to keep hold of experienced manager Rafael Benítez, who also knows how to win trophies. But they’d surely splash some cash on new players, who could be lured by a bigger pay package than at other clubs or in other leagues. Newcastle only broke their transfer fee record in January, when they bought Miguel Almirón for 21 million pounds – nearly a laughable sum for the big spenders these days. And some fans, although rather ironically, are already thinking of entering the transfer market for the biggest talent there is.
What seems like a rather unlikely scenario now might well turn out to be not as unrealistic as it seems. If Sheik Khaled Bin Zayed Al Nahyan is out to transform Newcastle United into a contender in the Premier League, equal to Man City, he would need to splash the cash and drive developments. Who would have thought in 2008, when Chelsea and Man United contested the Champions League final and were an the pinnacle of their power, that only 11 years later City would have won ten major honours in English football? In truth, Newcastle could go the same way, because money does talk in this system.
Al Nahyan had apparently tried to buy the FC Liverpool a few years back, but failed. Maybe Newcastle United will be his springboard for success in the modern football world.
The possible shift: Traditional club to superpower?
Hard to imagine it is, Newcastle United fighting for Champions League glory in a few years – if it’s not on FIFA. But such power shifts can happen. The saying that you cannot buy success is only partly true. Big amounts of money do not guarantee success. Manchester United for example, just like AC Milan recently, haven’t spent their money wisely and paid the price, falling down in the rankings of European top clubs, while other clubs are thriving. If Newcastle were to be put into a transforming era, they need to put the money from their eventual new owners in the right places and start building something with deliberation. Because that will rather yield success on the pitch than a buy-it-all-win-it-all approach. It will also make for a better perception of the club. For Newcastle United with all their history and a big and passionate fanbase, would need to make sure that they don’t scare off their supporters by becoming all too fancy. Sure, those fans would like to be back in the Champions League and be rivals to the big teams again. But there’s no flip switch to make that happen – and there should never be.
Will the takover happen? We don’t know, but probably it will. And will that transform the Magpies, make them a big team and change the preconditions in the Premier League in the years to come, will maybe even more super-rich investors go to take over other clubs from England? Maybe. Thankfully we cannot really predict what will happen in football. As fans, we’re still happy to witness breakthrough stories like Sean Longstaff’s.
But we’re also deeply impressed by new records and beatiful football, like Man City are providing them. The future of Premier League football and football in Europe is determined by a balance of great financial backing and a sense for the essential elements of the game. Passion, honesty, fight, they can be forgotten over money, but never should be. Fans will appreciate both. And maybe the Magpies’ fans will be cheering a successful and passionate team in the near future. But winning constantly is about power and nous, something you cannot buy in the short term. So let’s see who prevails in the long term, getting the balance right. And let’s not forget that exceptional people make success possible, like Guardiola, Messi, Sterling, Salah, Allegri, Löw in his prime, Ranieri, Vardy and Co. Yet, more often than not, money will be a factor for them, too. Interesting times for the Toon Army and anyone else in love with football.