Newcastle United have invested well since being granted all the riches of Saudi Arabia. They have brought in young players like Garang Kuol and Harrison Ashby while avoiding paying ‘Newcastle Tax’ for Bruno Guimaraes and Sven Botman.
They are not the first Premier League club to be taken over and instantly transformed by filthy-rich owners looking to use the art of sportswashing to tip-toe their names away from whatever monstrosities they have indulged in. That is a conversation for another day. Lord knows we have spoken about it a lot already.
Most notably, Manchester City’s Abu Dhabi takeover was completed on deadline day of the 2008 summer transfer window. They got one deal over the line before the window slammed shut, then went a bit nuts in January 2009, much like the Magpies did in the winter of 2022.
City have enjoyed a ludicrous amount of success under the Abu Dhabi United Group and there is no reason why Newcastle cannot go on to replicate the trophies won as well as what has been a remarkable infrastructure transformation in Manchester. They are ahead of schedule and will play in the Champions League after their first full season under their Saudi Arabian ownership. So they must have bought pretty well, right?
We thought it would be interesting to compare all 14 of Newcastle’s PIF purchases with the first 14 made by City from September 2008 onwards. We have chosen which City player is the closest match to the Magpies’ lot, who are in chronological order. Some inevitably make zero sense, unfortunately.
1) Kieran Trippier vs Kolo Toure
Newcastle United got their first transfer window with PIF at the helm underway with the astute signing of Atletico Madrid right-back Kieran Trippier, who had been out of English football for two-and-a-half years but remained an England regular under Gareth Southgate as he won La Liga in 2020/21.
Trippier cost the Magpies for an initial £12million fee, which raised a few eyebrows as many people expected ‘Newcastle Tax’ to greatly hinder their transfer business. It clearly did not and the former Tottenham man has arguably been the club’s best PIF acquisition, taking home the Player of the Year award for his 22/23 campaign.
There are no fair comparisons, to be honest. The closest we got was Kolo Toure, City’s tenth signing of their new era. Toure and Trippier captained their respective sides early doors, both players cost a similar fee, joined in their prime years, and are defenders. That is where the similarities end.
Verdict: Trippier takes this one. His levels of consistency and evident leadership skills have gone a long way to making Newcastle a Champions League side.
2) Chris Wood vs Roque Santa Cruz
An evident part of the takeover transition is to sign a target man. Newcastle did this straight away, bringing in Chris Wood after they triggered his Burnley release clause – believed to be worth £25m. The only positive from this signing was that it strongly contributed to Burnley’s relegation. Wood has already been sold to Nottingham Forest for a loss in the region of £10m.
Roque Santa Cruz, who is still going strong in the Paraguayan top flight, scored goals everywhere he has played – except for Manchester City, where he did technically score goals, but only four of them. Signed from Blackburn Rovers for around £19m, purchase number seven flopped and he flopped hard.
Verdict: Both were rubbish. As Newcastle significantly weakened a relegation rival and stayed up comfortably with Wood leading the line, he can get our vote. Also, there were some decent expectations of Santa Cruz at City, unlike the big New Zealander in the Toon.
3) Bruno Guimaraes vs Robinho
Robinho and Bruno Guimaraes were the first statement signings made by City and the Toon. Both Brazilians came to the Premier League and made an instant impact. Unfortunately for the Cityzens and Mark Hughes, the former was not too happy to be there, while Guimaraes has made Newcastle his hometown and is not looking to take on a new adventure any time soon.
Robinho was City’s only signing on the day they were taken over, joining from Real Madrid for a British record £32.5m fee amidst interest from Chelsea. Bruno cost closer to £40m, which has ended up being a right bargain.
Verdict: Guimaraes takes this one. He has quickly established himself as one of the best midfielders in the world and is a lot less trouble than Robinho.
4) Matt Targett vs Wayne Bridge
It is time for the battle of the English left-backs.
Matt Targett joined Newcastle on loan in January 2022 before making his move permanent six months later for £15m. This has not been a good investment. Dan Burn has been Eddie Howe’s first-choice left-back, despite being a central defender.
Wayne Bridge, meanwhile, was as steady as they come despite losing his place in the team following the arrivals of Aleksandar Kolarov and Gael Clichy.
Verdict: Manchester City are still alive here after pulling one back.
5) Dan Burn vs Nigel de Jong
As we touched on, there are a few comparisons that make zero sense. Both projects were clearly not identical and it would have been a bit strange if they were. So yes, here we are comparing 6’6″ left-back Dan Burn with 5’9″ midfield anchor Nigel de Jong, who was City’s fourth signing funded by Abu Dhabi.
Burn has been decent enough for Newcastle, especially considering he only cost £13m. De Jong, on the other hand, barely put a foot wrong as the destroyer in Hughes and then Roberto Mancini’s midfield.
Verdict: Comfortable win for De Jong here.
6) Nick Pope vs Shay Given
This is the first and only signing in which someone has transferred from one of these clubs to the other. How fun!
Little did Hughes know when he signed Shay Given but he had two of the most promising young goalkeepers in world football at his disposal in Joe Hart and Kasper Schmeichel. Given joined in the 2008 winter window and instantly became City’s No. 1, playing in every possible game for his new club in the second half of 08/09.
In what has been an inspired signing and a huge upgrade on Martin Dubravka, Nick Pope is currently Newcastle’s first-choice goalkeeper having cost the club £10m, which is absolute peanuts in this day and age.
Verdict: Pope is our winner here. Quite comfortably actually.
7) Sven Botman vs Joleon Lescott
Joleon Lescott had his injury troubles at the Etihad, especially in his first season, but he will be remembered fondly by City fans after he played a huge part in their maiden Premier League title success in 11/12.
Competition for places was fierce thanks to Vincent Kompany and Kolo Toure and Lescott would tend to do well whenever he played. Was he on the same level as Sven Botman, though? Probably.
Botman joined Newcastle and greatly influenced their transition into the best defence in the Premier League. Much like the fee paid for Guimaraes, which is still a lot of money, the £34m Botman cost is now looking like an absolute snip.
Verdict: This is tough. Sitting on the fence would be the easy option, so it is not an option. The victor is…Botman, who is just a better player than Lescott was.
8) Alexander Isak vs Emmanuel Adebayor
Wood and Santa Cruz were out-and-out target men, while Alexander Isak and Emmanuel Adebayor possess the skills to be target men, but have a lot more to their game.
Adebayor in his pomp for Arsenal was unplayable and he brought his ability with him up to Manchester. City’s riches ultimately caught up with Adebayor, who was surplus to requirements after a year-and-a-half at the Etihad thanks to the signings of Edin Dzeko, Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli.
Alexander Isak is Newcastle’s record signing at £60m and scored ten goals in 22 Premier League games last season, which is pretty good going for a 23-year-old experiencing English football for the first time.
Verdict: This is another tough one. Adebayor had a good goal record for City (19 in 45) but Isak’s ceiling as a player and debut season means he is our winner, even if he cost a shedload of cash.
9) Garang Kuol vs Patrick Vieira
We have no idea how we got here, but we did.
Verdict: Patrick Vieira takes it.
10) Anthony Gordon vs Carlos Tevez
Both players have short tempers but worked hard whenever they took to the pitch. One was a world-class forward, while the other is nowhere near that level yet, even after a brilliant Under-21s European Championship campaign this summer.
Verdict: A no-brainer here as Carlos Tevez gets City right back into it.
11) Harrison Ashby vs Sylvinho
Yes, that Sylvinho played for Manchester City. He cost nothing and played 15 times for them.
Newcastle, meanwhile, paid £3m to sign young right-back Harrison Ashby from West Ham.
Verdict: Given Ashby has not played a single game for the Magpies and cost money, we say Sylvinho.
12) Yankuba Minteh vs Adam Johnson
We don’t know an awful lot about Minteh but it is safe to say we have gotten off on the wrong foot here and we can only apologize. Good luck on loan at Feyenoord, mate.
Verdict: Johnson, but only because we need there to be a point in it at the end.
13) Sandro Tonali vs Gareth Barry
Newcastle have gone big again this summer, signing the defensive midfielder Eddie Howe has been craving. Sandro Tonali has cost the club over £50m and will need to hit the ground running when Serie A imports do not have a great track record in Our League.
Tonali has everything in his locker to become one of the best midfielders in the world and while he is a different kind of player to Gareth Barry, this is the closest comparison we could make. We all know Barry has more Premier League appearances than anyone else, but people tend to forget how good he was, especially during his Aston Villa and Manchester City days.
Verdict: One-time Premier League winner Barry nearly beats Tonali here, but the Italian seems like he is the real deal. The score is 7-6 to Newcastle going into the fourteenth and final signing…
14) Harvey Barnes vs Craig Bellamy
Newcastle’s latest recruit is Harvey Barnes, who cannot be mentioned unless you say his first and last name. That’s the rule. God only knows who made it, but we must abide by it.
£38m for Barnes is decent considering he is English, which tends to double prices these days. He impressed for Leicester City without really setting the world alight and will need to win over fans at St James’ Park as he isn’t as fancy as someone like Raphinha or Moussa Diaby.
Is Barnes a better player than Craig Bellamy was? No. Does he have a higher ceiling than Bellamy’s best version of himself? Definitely. It is up to him to make sure he lives up to that potential.
Verdict: Bellamy takes this one. When you think of a player who really helped City during their first period under their new owners, the Welsh winger comes to mind. For me, anyway. This means it’s a 7-7 draw. How boring.