Middle East money bound for Newcastle

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Amanda Staveley is leading a group seeking to buy Newcastle from Mike Ashley. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 15 December 2017
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Middle East money bound for Newcastle

LONDON: Newcastle United find themselves in a strange limbo but on Wednesday night, it seems, the takeover of the club by the Dubai-based PCP Capital Partners Middle Eastern investment fund took a significant step forward. It is a saga that had dragged on for so long, that many fans had begun to lose hope of the takeover happening at all; after all, it wouldn’t be the first time their owner Mike Ashley had prevaricated on a deal with the result that the potential buyers had drifted off.
The whole season has been played out in the shadow of the takeover. Newcastle are battling in the Premier League with a Championship squad, with Ashley understandably reluctant to invest in players for the benefit of a new owner. Even with Amanda Staveley, the financer fronting the deal, increasing her offer to a reported £300 million ($400 million) on Wednesday, though, it is unlikely any resolution will be swift and it could be late January or even February before the takeover is completed. That would be too late for the January transfer window, which could have serious consequences for the club in terms of avoiding relegation. Exactly who is backing the fund remains unclear, although it is thought the main driver is from the Arabian Gulf. Newcastle fans won’t care.
After a decade of battling Ashley and his cost-cutting and crassness, there’s a sense that almost any owner is better than the one they have. It is, of course, nothing new for Premier League clubs to be under foreign ownership. Only seven of the 20 clubs are majority-owned by British concerns.
The Premier League is increasingly a global league that happens to be hosted by England (and Wales). Newcastle will look at the last deal Staveley fronted — Sheikh Mansour’s takeover of Manchester City in 2009 — and feel a surge of optimism. Whatever dark mutterings there may have been about City buying success (as though every successful club in the past 40 years or so of English football didn’t in part owe its position to economic advantages), or Mansour’s reasons for investing in English football — it would be naïve to believe he has done it solely because he enjoys the game, or because he believes it will secure a healthy return on investment — the result has been a team playing the best football in the world at the moment.
You do not have to be a City fan to see his ownership of the club as a positive, and that is without even considering all the investment that has gone on to redevelop what had been a run-down area of east Manchester.
The general perception of the Qatari investment in PSG is rather less positive. They too have played some thrilling attacking football this season, breaking the Champions League group stage goalscoring record.
The signings of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, though, were so brash and created such an imbalance in the squad that it was hard to interpret them as having been made for purely football reasons; rather this was a display of financial muscle, a slightly vulgar expression of soft power that, frankly, made a mockery of Financial Fair Play regulations. Everton, meanwhile, serve as a cautionary tale closer to home for Newcastle of Middle-Eastern investment and what can go wrong when money is sent without a plan.
While PSG will almost certainly win Ligue 1 and should be challengers for the Champions League, Everton, after a summer in which they spent €158 million (albeit recouping €107.4 million), found relegation such a threat they were forced to part company with Ronaldo Koeman and appoint Sam Allardyce, a step that has driven them up the table but is hardly the move of a progressive club building for an exciting future. It’s a familiar theme. Success in football is almost impossible without money but money in and of itself is not sufficient to bring success. Squads must be blended with care and attention. It has taken City eight years to get to this stage, appointing former Barcelona executives to entice Pep Guardiola and then buying him the players he needed.
Staveley’s takeover, if it goes ahead, will solve only one of Newcastle’s problems, that of Ashley. Beyond that, it’s an opportunity, and one that will increase the influence of the Middle East in European football.
 


World Cup boost for Egypt as Mohamed Salah "is ready to play against Russia"

Updated 18 June 2018
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World Cup boost for Egypt as Mohamed Salah "is ready to play against Russia"

  • Liverpool star took part in full training
  • Egypt team manager says Salah is poised to make his World Cup bow

ST PETERSBURG: Mohamed Salah is a looming obstacle as Russia attempt to virtually secure their place in the knockout stages of the World Cup in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.
Fears that poor performances from the home side could dampen enthusiasm in the host nation were blown away by a 5-0 demolition of Saudi Arabia in the opening game.
The seven-time African champions will pose a much tougher task, but a lot will depend upon Salah's fitness.
Liverpool star Salah has not featured since leaving the field in tears early in the Champions League final just over three weeks ago after landing heavily on his left shoulder and had to watch from the bench as Egypt lost 1-0 to Uruguay in their opening game.
Salah has been declared 100 percent fit by Egypt's team doctor and his agent, leaving little doubt he will be thrown back into action in the Pharaohs' hour of need.
However, as he returned to training on Saturday, Salah was seen by AFP reporters at Egypt's training camp in Grozny needing help from teammates to lift a training top over his head.
"Salah participated in training with his teammates for the entire session and he is ready to play against Russia according to technical staff," Egypt's team manager Ihab Leheta told FIFA.com.
Egypt coach Hector Cuper's decision not to risk Salah against Uruguay may have been influenced by the fact his side held out for 89 minutes before conceding to Jose Gimenez, by which time the Argentine had made all three of his substitutions.
"Russia's game is fateful and difficult because of our defeat against Uruguay," said Leheta. "Winning is our only choice".
If fully fit, the sight of Salah, who scored 44 goals in a remarkable debut season at Liverpool, will strike fear into the Russians.
Concerns Russia could become just the second host nation to bow out of the World Cup at the group stage after a seven-game winless run ahead of the tournament have been alleviated by a perfect start.
With Uruguay favourites to top the group, though, Russia are keen not to have to rely on getting something from their final group game against the two-time former world champions.
"The second game will be our most important one in the group stage," said Russia's deputy prime minister and former football federation president Vitaly Mutko after attending Russia's training session on Sunday.
A close ally of President Vladimir Putin, Mutko oversaw preparations for the tournament at a cost of more than $13 billion.
"In the first match, everyone saw how much the players cared. If we play up to our level, I don't see any problems."
Denis Cheryshev was Russia's hero against Saudi Arabia as he came off the bench to score twice.
And the Villarreal winger accepted it will be a more "interesting" clash if Salah is fit.
"If he's not there, does that mean our task becomes easy? Not at all," he told FIFA.com "If he plays, it will be hard but more interesting. He's one of the best and you always want to compete with the best and win."
Russia will be without one of their key players, with Alan Dzagoev expected to miss the rest of the tournament with a hamstring injury.