It’s an exciting and nerve-wracking time to be a Newcastle United fan. Mike Ashley’s 13-year tenure as owner is almost over – assuming the buyout led by Amanda Staveley is ratified by the Premier League. But the green light has yet to be given.
Few Premier League club owners have been as unpopular as Ashley over that timeframe but there’s finally light at the end of the tunnel.
Backed by the combined wealth of Staveley, the Saudi Public Investment Fund and the Reuben brothers, Newcastle would become the richest side in the top-flight.
Plenty to look forward to, then…
With four players on loan and another six senior players out of contract this summer a big turnover is expected – and that’s before the Magpies get their hands on any cash.
Furthermore, the future of boss Steve Bruce will have to be sorted. The 59-year-old has done well to steer Newcastle clear of trouble but hasn’t won many admirers on Tyneside.
The suggestion is a new, higher-profile manager could be sought when the long-drawn-out takeover is finally completed. Mauricio Pochettino and – inevitably – Rafa Benítez are among those to have been linked.
In terms of playing personnel, left-backs Danny Rose and Jetro Willems will return to Tottenham Hotspur and Eintracht Frankfurt respectively. Valentino Lazaro will return to Internazionale too. While Nabil Bentaleb is on loan from Schalke, Newcastle have the option to make the switch permanent.
Andy Carroll is out of contract and has made just four league starts but Bruce is a huge fan. Newcastle also have a year’s option on his contract.
Keepers Karl Darlow and Rob Elliot will become free agents too. Neither has any chance of ousting Martin Dúbravka as the Magpies’ No.1 but Elliot, at 34, is probably the more content to serve as his deputy.
The one player Newcastle want to keep is midfielder Matty Longstaff. Younger brother of Sean, the 19-year-old was promoted to the first-team squad by Bruce. But talks over a renewal have hit an ‘impasse‘.
Forwards Dwight Gayle and Yoshinori Muto might find themselves moved on. Henri Saivet is still a Toon player despite making his last appearance in 2017/18.
Key areas to strengthen
A lot hinges on who leaves St. James’ Park but, regardless, a proper No.9 has to be high on the agenda. At a club-record £40million, Joelinton was meant to be that player. But the former Hoffenheim forward has scored once in the Premier League and not since August.
Carroll hasn’t stayed fit long enough to leapfrog the Brazilian while Gayle has also been injured. A reliable forward who can score at least ten league goals is a must.
Full-back is another key area for Bruce – or whoever is in the dugout by the summer – to strengthen. With Manquillo, Rose and Willems all off, cover will be needed on both sides of the defence.
The wide areas could use some work too. Allan Saint-Maximin has been great fun since his arrival last summer but his end product is inconsistent. Christian Atsu and Matt Ritchie have struggled for form and fitness respectively.
We’ve already taken a closer look at some of the higher-profile players linked (perhaps optimistically) with St. James’ Park here.
It’s not yet known what kind of transfer budget will be made available if Staveley and co. complete their purchase but the assumption is there will be heavy spending.
For a start, Rose could make his loan permanent. It was reported in March the Tottenham full-back isn’t wanted back in North London and he has long spoken of a desire to return to the north.
Two other Premier League players have been linked more recently. According to the Daily Telegraph, Benítez would like to bring Ross Barkley and John Stones in if he is re-appointed. Both are surplus to requirements at their respective clubs.
Another player who has found himself out of favour at his current club is Xherdan Shaqiri. The Swiss playmaker would inject some much-needed creativity into the Magpies’ side and is expected to leave Liverpool this summer. St. James’ Park is just one potential destination, according to the Daily Mail.
Bournemouth winger Ryan Fraser is out of contract this summer and has been linked with Tottenham, Galatasaray and Crystal Palace. According to the Daily Express, Newcastle have joined the chase for the diminutive Scot.
Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuaín is another option. The 32-year-old looks destined to leave Turin this summer and, according to the Daily Express, Newcastle will battle Wolverhampton Wanderers for the Argentine. He could also move to Major League Soccer where his brother, Federico, plays for DC United.