‘Newcastle at crossroads as deadline day looms’

25 January 2024 0 By Total Football News

Newcastle striker Alexander Isak strikes the ballAlexander Isak has scored 20 goals in 38 Premier League games for Newcastle

Since the Saudi Arabian-led takeover in October 2021, you could be forgiven for expecting Newcastle United to be among the world’s biggest spenders in every transfer window.

The reality, however, has been quite different.

Under the Premier League’s Profit and Sustainability Rules (PSR) – formerly Financial Fair Play (FFP) – clubs are only allowed to make losses of £105m over a rolling three-year period and must spend what they earn beyond that.

With Newcastle’s growth on the pitch far exceeding that off it, there was always going to come a point where these financial restrictions would curb the club’s desire to spend.

This month, it has been player sales, rather than incoming transfers, that have been the focus. BBC Sport takes a look at why.

‘At times it is necessary to trade players’

Newcastle chief executive, Darren Eales, gave an interview to the club’s in-house media channels at the start of the month. In it, he announced a 40% growth in revenue for a second successive year thanks to sponsorship deals with companies such as Sela and Noon, Champions League qualification and an impending shirt manufacturing deal with Adidas.

But there was also a £73.4m loss recorded, and Eales directly addressed the suggestion that player sales will be considered in the next phase of the project.

“On any player, at any time, it depends on circumstances,” he said. “Any decision we make will always be against the backdrop of the medium- to long-term benefit for the club.

“It’s difficult to say specifically on certain players, but I can say that if we’re going to get to where we want to get to, at times it is necessary to trade your players.”

Newcastle have only sold Allan Saint-Maximin [£25m) and Chris Wood [£15m] for any impactful fee under the current owners. The fact the club were deep in a relegation battle just two years ago suggests existing value in the squad was low, accelerating talk of a player signed under the Public Investment Fund’s stewardship needing to be sacrificed.

Brazil midfielder Bruno Guimaraes joined from Lyon for £40m in January 2022, before defender Sven Botman and Alexander Isak signed for £32m and £63m respectively the following summer. They, alongside last winter’s £40m acquisition Anthony Gordon, are Newcastle’s most ambitious signings to date, but also their best possibility for an immediate profit.

Reaching the Champions League last season accelerated development more than expected. Suddenly, to maintain their position, they need to shop in markets their financial reality is not ready for. While their revenue for 2023 stands at £250m, it is still some way behind Tottenham’s recording from a year earlier of £444m. Clubs like Manchester City and Manchester United are further ahead.

For all the wealth of their ownership, Newcastle have a gap to close off the pitch. Selling Guimaraes or Isak would be the quickest way to help do that but, with the club sitting 10th in the Premier League and 14 points off the top four, it would make competing in the top flight much tougher.

Who might be sold?

Because of the lack of available funds, Newcastle have always maintained it will not be a hectic January transfer window, but Eales’ comments may have been calculated to a degree.

Over recent days, Bayern Munich have had approaches for defender Kieran Trippier turned down, as have Atletico Madrid for Callum Wilson, with both open to moves if an agreement were to be reached. Newcastle do not want to sell and nobody is forcing the issue, but Trippier is 33, Wilson is 31, and both are in the final 18 months of their contracts. There may be a quiet acceptance that deals could be done at the right price, but neither look likely as things stand.

Miguel Almiron has been linked with a move to Saudi Pro League club Al-Shabab, as has Jamaal Lascelles with Turkish club Besiktas, while defender Javi Manquillo has reunited with former boss Rafael Benitez at Celta Vigo on a free transfer.

Other avenues Newcastle could explore are academy graduates, which would represent 100% profit. Chelsea and Manchester City have sold their youth products to great effect in recent years and it would be another way to increase incoming funds without losing a star asset.

There are three graduates playing for the first team who could command good fees if sold. Sean Longstaff is a favourite of manager Eddie Howe, while the injured Elliot Anderson is incredibly well thought of.

But the jewel in the crown is 17-year-old midfielder Lewis Miley, who many inside the club believe can go to the very top of the game. There is nothing to suggest Newcastle are considering this route, but tough decisions will have to be made and it could be an option.

Midfielder Joelinton’s contract expires in 2025 and he is at an impasse over a new deal. Newcastle have a wage structure in place, but the Brazilian, who has had surgery on a thigh problem this week and will not return until May, wants to be among the top earners. His performances over the past few years would mean his value would remain high next summer.

What could happen this month?

With a number of injuries, and last summer’s biggest signing Sandro Tonali serving a suspension for breaching betting rules, Newcastle have targeted a loan move for a midfielder.

Manchester City’s Kalvin Phillips was of interest, but he is set to join West Ham, while Atalanta’s Brazilian Ederson has been scouted and Everton’s Amadou Onana, Bournemouth’s Philip Billing and Nottingham Forest’s Morgan Gibbs-White have been linked, but they would likely need to be permanent deals.

There is a sense the club aim to hold off until the summer, when a bigger rebuild will follow. But any departures would mean they may have to act sooner.

Trippier and Wilson are big characters and reliable players; the former was the first signing of the takeover and has set the standard since as on-field captain in Lascelles’ absence, while the latter is the only other senior forward alongside Isak. The optics of either exit would not be good in the short term, but Eales’ vision is firmly on the mid to long term, and losing them would arguably be more palatable than someone like Guimaraes, who is one of Europe’s most sought-after players.

The board have always been open about the reality of PSR. Player trading may be part of the game, but Liverpool and Manchester City have shown that selling does not have to mean stagnation.

It seems inevitable that players will start to exit Newcastle, but who they are will have a huge bearing on how quickly they reach the next step. This is the first crossroads of the current era, and they must be clever to navigate it properly.

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