Newcastle United is a sleeping giant primed to become one of the richest clubs on Earth, as Amanda Staveley and a Saudi Arabian consortium move closer to a takeover of the northeast club.
Should the Magpies’ controversial new owners pass the Premier League’s Owners’ and Director’s Test — which is expected — the Chelsea and Manchester City comparisons will come instantly.
That talk would be completely understandable, even if there’s a gulf between the Magpies and one of their big money predecessors.
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Newcastle is eight years removed from its last European season, and it’s been nearly two decades since the Magpies participated in the Champions League. Chelsea was already in the Champions League when Roman Abramovich took over. Man City was in a better spot, too, but was much closer to Newcastle’s status.
Let’s take a look at what happened with Chelsea and Man City, what lessons the Magpies should have learned, and what will have to wait.
1) Transfers — Chelsea’s first season of the Roman Abramovich era saw the club purchase five players for more than $20 million each. Five more cost eight figures and a 10th just under that mark in Glen Johnson. Claude Makelele was the winner of the 13 signings made by Claudio Ranieri. Adrian Mutu and Hernan Crespo scored double-digit goals as Chelsea finished second for the first time in a half-century. They won the league the next two seasons, but also started with a UCL base. In fact, some say Abramovich was convinced to buy when Chelsea clinched fourth on the final day of the 2002-03 season.
City’s takeover happened as the Summer 2008 transfer window was closing. The season saw the club buy 10 players including one of the 13 bought by Chelsea five years prior (Wayne Bridge). Robinho came in the summer, though Pablo Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany’s $9 million buys became club legends. City would add Nigel de Jong, Craig Bellamy, Bridge, and Shay Given in the winter, finishing mid-table, and wouldn’t join the top four until the third season under Khaldoon Al Mubarak. The next season was the nuttiest, though, as City spent around $150 million on Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor, and Joleon Lescott amongst others.
Newcastle: The Magpies have some nice pieces in Allan Saint-Maximin, Martin Dubravka, Miguel Almiron, Jamaal Lascelles, and Fabian Schar, but the depth is simply not there. If the club wants to contend, it needs significant upgrades. Getting those without the lure of even the Europa League means hoping players buy into the project and also that players aren’t just chasing dollars. That said… Newcastle also will have less schedule congestion, so it’s reasonable to think they buy a half-dozen players rather than the full carton of eggs.
2) *The* record buy — Chelsea and Man City both bought big, and quickly. Man City broke the British transfer record to buy Robinho in 2008, easing past the mark set by Chelsea two seasons prior with the purchase of Andriy Shevchenko. Neither would win the Premier League, though Shevchenko won a cup double and finished a UCL runner-up.
Newcastle: Breaking the British transfer record would mean spending more than $110 million. Only six players have sold for more, and they went to Barcelona (3), PSG (2), and Atletico Madrid. But this will take some time, with Barca and Real ready to keep spending and Newcastle not having European football as a lure.
3) The boss — Ranieri had purchased a number of Chelsea’s legends before Abramovich arrived, but his UCL semifinal run and runner-up PL finish to Arsenal’s Invincibles were not enough to save his job.
Mark Hughes was on the job for a few months when Mubarak took over at the Etihad Stadium, and was canned four months into the second season for the Abu Dhabi ownership. They’d get it right with Roberto Mancini.
Newcastle: It’s a tricky spot here. Newcastle allowed beloved manager Rafa Benitez to walk and Steve Bruce has kept the ship somewhat steady. The Magpies have been linked with Max Allegri, Mauricio Pochettino, and a Benitez return. Bruce is a boyhood supporter of the Magpies but does not have the resume of a UCL boss.
4) The reputation — Both Chelsea and City have been lambasted time and again for their perceived purchasing of trophies, with “oligarch” cries hurled at the former and “oil money” at the latter.
Newcastle: The Magpies’ possible new 80 percent investors is the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, a country which has a poor human rights record. Their supporters have been crying for ‘anyone but Mike Ashley’ for a while. Here goes nothing.