Back in October, a group led by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund completed its purchase of Newcastle United as the kingdom's Public Investment Fund acquired an 80% stake in the club. Now, the new project from the Saudi-led ownership group is beginning to take its first steps in hopes of recapturing and one-upping some of the glory days of the 1990s.
It won't be easy or short, because even in the face of the unquestionable economic might of the new owners, the examples of clubs in previously similar situations, such as Paris Saint-Germain (Qatar Investment Authority) or Manchester City (Abu Dhabi United Group), make it clear that it takes several years to build a club from the ground up. It's also worth noting that the initial moves orchestrated by the new board was not easy, as they experienced some bumps along the way in a long and complicated search to replace Steve Bruce as manager.
Antonio Conte would have been a have dream appointment, but he was never available. Newcastle made a real push to try and convince Erik ten Hag and football director Mark Overmars to leave Ajax and start a new chapter in the Premier League, offering them substantial contracts and salaries. But they didn't accept. Newcastle then reached a verbal agreement with Paulo Fonseca without ever really being convinced he was the right choice to be their new manager. The club then entered into negotiations with Unai Emery, who was extremely close to making his return to the Premier League touchlines before Villarreal stopped him.
Ultimately, Newcastle appointed Eddie Howe as manager and there is great enthusiasm within the club, as his initial impact within the NUFC community was excellent. Although he could not be present at the first game because he tested positive for COVID-19, the club has still reacted very positively to his work in the early days at the helm. And the same goes for his backroom staff, considered to be one of the best in England.
How will the project evolve now? Now that the managerial search is in the backburner, the club can advance into new phases of the project, which includes a new director of football, a key figure for such an ambitious club. In the past week, the club engaged in official talks with candidates. On the list are former Chelsea and AS Monaco director Michael Emenalo, transfer guru Michael Edwards, who notably signed Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino and announced his farewell to Liverpool at season's end, and also Ramon Planes, who resigned from Barcelona where he brought in players such as Pedri and Ronaldo Araujo. Nothing is decided yet, but soon there will be a new director in to lead the creation of Newcastle 2.0.
And what about the market? In January, the plan is to make at least three new signings: Centerback is definitely in the plans, with the name of Burnley's James Tarkowski on the list. The idea is then to invest in a creative midfielder and a new striker, but there are no confirmations on some of the splashier names being linked in recent weeks, such as PSG's Mauro Icardi. I've been told it will be an "intelligent" and targeted approach to the market, in hopes of saving the team from any relegation danger. Real major investments are expected this upcoming summer when the Newcastle project enters a new phase. Right now, the priority is to stay above water in the Premier League.