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.
 


Kodjia fires Ivory Coast past South Africa in Africa Cup of Nations

Updated 1 min 28 sec ago
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Kodjia fires Ivory Coast past South Africa in Africa Cup of Nations

  • The Elephants set themselves up for a much improved display in Egypt after Kodjia scrambled home the winner on 64 minutes

CAIRO: Jonathan Kodjia struck the only goal as Ivory Coast defeated South Africa 1-0 in the steamy Cairo heat on Monday in a meeting of former Africa Cup of Nations champions.

Ivory Coast won the title for the second time in 2015 but crashed out in the group stage two years ago without a victory and are trying to rebuild a team to match that of their golden generation.

The Elephants set themselves up for a much improved display in Egypt after Kodjia scrambled home the winner on 64 minutes against the 1996 champions.

“It was a difficult match and the important thing for us was not to come a cropper in the opening game,” said Ivory Coast coach Ibrahim Kamara. “We needed to start well in the competition and that’s what we’ve done.”

South Africa boss Stuart Baxter said he had no complaints about the result after his side rarely threatened the Ivorian goal.

“Because of the lack of strikes on goal we can’t complain about losing the game, but I thought the players put in a great performance and it’s a great learning curve for us,” he said.

Talent

Kamara sees Nicolas Pepe as one the young stars who can banish the memories of a disastrous title defense, and the in-demand Lille forward soon demonstrated his talent with a jinking run that ended with Kodjia snatching at a shot from close range.

South Africa, who failed to qualify for the 2017 edition, on the other hand have arrived in Egypt as one of the most unpredictable teams.

Bafana Bafana scaled the heights at the outset of 2019 qualifying by winning 2-0 in Nigeria, then sank into mediocrity by drawing 0-0 away to lowly ranked Seychelles.

In the first half at Al Salam Stadium where temperatures again peaked around 37 Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit) they were largely limited to counter-attacks, captain Thulani Hlatshwayo going closest with a header that brushed the roof of the net.

Ivory Coast headed home early in Gabon after they were held by Togo and the Democratic Republic of Congo and lost against Morocco, but they nearly took the lead here twice in quick succession around the half-hour.

After a foul on the edge of the South Africa box Pepe, the 22-goal second highest French Ligue 1 scorer last season behind Kylian Mbappe, slammed a thunderous free kick against the crossbar with Ronwen Williams rooted to the spot.

The South Africa goalkeeper then produced a stunning reflex save to keep Kodjia out moments later as the Aston Villa forward ran clean through before needlessly opting for power over precision.

Amid the energy-sapping heat both sides made a labored start to the second half but it eventually burst into life when Kodjia atoned for his earlier miss.

Max Gradel was released into space down the left and the winger whipped a precise early ball across to an unmarked Kodjia who stabbed beyond Williams.

South Africa substitute Lars Veldwijk tumbled to the ground under pressure from Serge Kanon late on as they pressed for an equalizer and Sibusiso Vilakazi blazed over on the turn, while Pepe was denied a second for Ivory Coast from another free-kick following a flying save by Williams.