Newcastle United is the richest soccer club in the world.
Those are probably not the words you expected to read in 2021, or at any point in this decade at least, but life moves in mysterious ways and now this humble UK city, with its population of around 300,000 people, can bizarrely lay claim to being one of the best-funded teams on the planet.
We can debate the ethical nature of hooking up with business partners connected to entire nations until the cows come home, but the bottom line is that the Magpies – as they are known – will now be led by Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince who oversees the Public Investment Fund that has completed a takeover of the club.
Newcastle United fans have told Sky Sports it was the “best day” of their lives, as they celebrated the club’s takeover outside St James’ Park.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) October 7, 2021
For context, the second-richest owner in soccer – Manchester City’s Sheikh Mansour – has an estimated wealth of $31 billion. Roman Abramovich, once the bona fide richest man in the sport, has a net wealth of $13.5 billion.
The Public Investment Fund, meanwhile, has a war chest of around $430 billion.
It’s little wonder then that supporters of Newcastle were dancing a jig of jubilation in their city when the takeover was completed, with the promise of huge riches – and the deposition of detested former owner Mike Ashley – ensuring brighter days are ahead.
Or are they?
Midnight in Paris
It’s a bold investment, in some ways, from the Saudi aristocracy, given that Newcastle’s status as a Premier League team is not confirmed.
The 2021/22 campaign is seven weeks old and the Magpies find themselves in the relegation zone, and they are yet to claim a single victory. There’s a heck of a long way to go in the season, but with the transfer window not opening until January, there’s very little time ahead for the new owners to make their money count.
Indeed, those that monitor the football bets from Space Casino will notice that, in their odds, they make Newcastle the fourth-favorite to be relegated – the bottom three sides go down, remember.
So could the Saudis have purchased a club that might be playing second-tier soccer next term? It’s certainly possible, and it would be fair to say that squad of players they currently have is not of an elite standard.
The head coach, Steve Bruce, is a likable man, but the jury is out on whether he has the tactical nous or the global appeal to attract the best players to Tyneside… and to get the best out of them.
— Telegraph Sport (@TelegraphSport) October 10, 2021
It seems increasingly likely that he will be relieved of his duties sooner rather than later, with a more technically-minded coach – a Lucien Favre or an Antonio Conte – likely to be appointed.
Some interesting parallels can be drawn with Paris St Germain, who themselves enjoyed a ‘big bang’ effect when Qatar Sports Investments, a rather wealthy consortium, acquired ownership of the club in 2011.
Since then, seven Ligue 1 titles have followed, but the one they really want – the Champions League – continues to elude them. Given that PSG had been French champions prior to the takeover, we can only conclude that money doesn’t necessarily buy you happiness, nor success on the soccer field.
It’s a cautionary tale for those Newcastle United fans expecting instant success to follow…
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