Newcastle would LOVE IT if Pochettino joined Saudi revolution – but they’ll have to convince him it’s the right move – The Sun
IT was as amusing as it was predictable.
With Newcastle’s £300million Saudi-led takeover nearing completion, news emerged that Kevin Keegan has been lined up for a crowd-pleasing return to the club.
Ah yes, there’s nothing like an easy PR win and at least the 69-year-old Messiah — whose “I’d LOVE it if we beat them” rant was 24 years ago tomorrow — is being lined up as an ambassador rather than for a third stint as manager.
Even in such a ceremonial role, King Kev might always be inclined to storm off in a tizzy if he isn’t given enough Ferrero Rochers to dish out, but the serious business begins with the appointment of a new manager.
That will be horribly harsh on Steve Bruce but seems almost inevitable given the grand ambitions of Newcastle’s likely new owners.
So if the Saudis want to prove they mean business — and Saudi royals don’t usually spend money for the giggle factor — they must make the most persuasive possible case to land Mauricio Pochettino.
With the Premier League adamant Financial Fair Play restrictions will not be loosened because of the coronavirus crisis, Newcastle’s new owners must achieve their aim of establishing themselves as a Champions League club while making losses of no more than £105million over a three-year period.
And Pochettino, who led Tottenham to four consecutive Champions League qualifications on a net spend of less than £20m per year, is the only man with a track record of achieving such a feat in English football.
But the obvious question is: why would he fancy Newcastle? Why would the best manager in the world never to have won a trophy, choose a club which has gone half a century without major silverware?
Perhaps because Pochettino is a workaholic who is itching for a job and who favours the Premier League — where there may be no better short-term options.
He is said to prefer the intense competition of English football to the prospect of “easy trophies” with a Bayern Munich or Paris Saint-Germain.
Manchester United looked like the Argentinian’s next destination but a pre-lockdown upturn under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer makes it less likely.
Pochettino would also be a prime candidate to succeed Pep Guardiola at Manchester City but that role is expected to fall vacant next year rather than this.
So Newcastle, with a vast stadium and supporter base, with a feelgood factor, a long-term plan and the precious commodity of a little patience, would surely be worthy of true consideration.
Pochettino became increasingly frustrated at having to work with a Spurs squad whose quality was diluted, rather than enhanced, as the club built its new stadium.
And on Tyneside, the trajectory would certainly be an upward one.
This all assumes that the consortium — fronted by financier Amanda Staveley and funded by the Saudi regime, as well as the Chelsea-supporting billionaire Reuben brothers — gets the green light from the Premier League.
Concerns over human rights in Saudi Arabia, and of that brutal regime looking to use Newcastle as a “sportswashing” vehicle to clean up its public image, are genuine and substantial.
But there has been little public backlash from a Geordie nation simply desperate to be rid of current owner Mike Ashley.
It is a sad reality that supporters tend only to worry about which tyrants run football clubs other than their own.
And that there are plenty of existing Premier League owners who would rather we didn’t get too moralistic about who is allowed to run a club in the English top flight, fearing a harsher spotlight on themselves.
If and when the new regime sweeps into Toon, it would be the most significant Premier League takeover since Manchester City’s 2008 Abu Dhabi buyout.
Yet there will be no equivalent of City’s immediate British transfer record-breaking signing of £32.5million Robinho from Real Madrid.
Danny Rose, currently on loan from Spurs, would be a likely first purchase — and one that Pochettino would approve of.
From there, the short-term priorities would include new contracts for the promising homegrown Longstaff brothers and the capture of three or four key proven top-level performers, who might become more affordable in a post-coronavirus market.
Over many years, the Geordies have grown accustomed to occasional waves of euphoria, usually involving Keegan arriving, followed by severe mood slumps, usually when Keegan decides he’s had enough.
This time, the plan will be ambitious but long-term and sustainable, fuelled by practicality rather than sentimentality. And with Pochettino at the helm, it might just succeed.
EARLIER this month, health secretary Matt Hancock used the tragic deaths of NHS workers to urge Premier League footballers to take pay cuts.
These were comments which were both crass and economically questionable, given that players earning less money would cost the Exchequer.
Now Government sources are gleefully announcing the return of football ‘within weeks’, dealing opium to the masses during dark times, even when there is no certainty that this will be possible.
If it all sounds like rank hypocrisy, it probably is rank hypocrisy.
NEV-ER GONNA WORK
AS Phil Neville prepares to end a disappointing reign as England women’s manager, it is worth remembering that, 18 months ago, a senior FA figure briefed journalists that he was a leading candidate to succeed Gareth Southgate as men’s team boss.
Those present claim the executive spoke with a straight face.
Though we must remember that he wouldn’t put his name to the idea.
LEAVE IT ALONE
IN THE election campaign between Bill Beaumont and Agustin Pichot for the chairmanship of World Rugby, there has been much talk of introducing promotion and relegation to the Six Nations.
Yet given Scotland’s sporadic struggles, this could lead to the Calcutta Cup, the oldest trophy in world sport, no longer being contested annually.
Four of the last five England-Scotland matches have been closely fought, including an epic 38-38 draw last year.
There is no appetite to make the fixture less frequent.
FIFA’S plan to allow five subs a team for the rest of this season seems sensible given the likelihood of fixture congestion and the increased risk of injury and burn-out.
But how temporary would this ‘temporary’ measure be given that it would clearly benefit the richest clubs with the deepest squads?
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