The controversial £300 million Saudi Arabia deal to buy Newcastle United from Mike Ashley is nearing completion with a £17million non-refundable deposit paid, contracts exchanged and legal processes underway to finalise the deal. The Premier League is being urged to investigate the deal by BeIN Sports, due to the alleged role of Saudi Arabia in illegal screening of Premier League matches, Amnesty International which is concerned about the appalling human rights record and Hatice Cengiz, fiance of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post journalist brutally murdered and dismembered by a hit team in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul.
Despite the controversy, the parties involved aim to finalise the deal in the next 10 days or so and fans of the Magpies are eager to find out the plans for the new season. Manager Steve Bruce seems likely to be replaced as a new Saudi broom sweeps in, led by Bander bin Mogren, the Chief Operating Officer of the Saudi’s Public Investment Fund. Initially, Rafa Benitez was fancied to replace Bruce but the Spaniard, who managed the club until June last year, is no longer considered favourite. Instead, Mauricio Pochettino, the former manager of Tottenham Hotspur, is leading the pack with odds of Evens from Betfair that the 48 year-old Argentinian will be taking the reins shortly.
Pochettino started his Premier League career at Southampton before moving to manage Spurs in 2014. Under his leadership the team qualified for the Champions League four times. Last year, they made the final, losing 2-0 to Liverpool, but in spite of this success at European level Pochettino was sacked in November, as the domestic performance of the team slumped and Spurs were lying in 14th place in the League table.
Despite his ignominious departure from Tottenham Hotspur, Pochettino would be a considerable asset for the Saudi consortium and it is expected he would encourage the team to adopt an attacking approach to the game, pressurising opponents at every opportunity. He would also be expected to develop the Newcastle United Academy to ensure that the young talent in the North East gets the support and opportunity to progress ultimately into the first team if appropriate.
There is no doubt too that Pochettino would be encouraged to buy top-level players, with the consortium’s deep pockets allowing headline-grabbing transfers.
But the Argentinian claims that his heart lies at Tottenham Hotspur, saying to BT Sport “It was an amazing journey that finished the way no one wanted it to finish. But deep in my heart, I am sure our paths will cross again. From the day I left the club, my dream is to be back one day and to try to finish the work we didn’t finish. We were so close to winning the Premier League and Champions League. Of course, I am looking forward to moving on and I am so motivated for the next project. But deep inside I want to go back because the fans are so special. Maybe in five years, maybe in 10 years, but before I die I want to manage Tottenham”.
With Jose Mourinho now firmly in place at Spurs, Pochettino knows his dream is likely to remain exactly that for now and he is tilting his hat at Newcastle United. The Saudis are rumoured to be offering a contract worth £19 million per annum, which will make Pochettino one of the best-paid managers in the game.