Rio Ferdinand launched into a pro-Mike Ashley diatribe on Saturday. It went down really well.
Ferdinand leapt to the defence of the beleaguered Newcastle owner, who came under fresh scrutiny after the club slipped into the Premier League bottom three following defeat to Chelsea.
The BT Sport pundit said that Ashley should be ‘thanked’ by Newcastle fans for spending “his own money” to get them promoted, and for landing Rafael Benitez as manager.
“I understand Rafa’s frustrations because as a manager you want the ability to go out and spend money, but they’re not in that position.
“At the same time I understand Mike Ashley. Why is he going to spend more and more money – millions and millions of pounds – when he’s actually looking to sell the club?
“He’s got them to a point now where they’re back in the Premier League and they’re consolidating to a certain extent.
“He’s not going to go spend his own money. You wouldn’t go spend your own money now knowing you were trying to sell something unless you knew you were going to get that back.
“It’s not easy to sell a football club. He’s got a price and he’s going to wait to get it. He’s spent money at that football club, he’s just not going to spend it at this time.
“All these fans, they do dream, and they dream big and I understand that. What are Newcastle’s aims? They can’t be aiming at being a Man Utd or a Man City. They’ve got to aim to be a Bournemouth. They’ve only just started spending.
“I’m not saying everything they’re doing is correct. What I’m saying is, I think Mike Ashley, you can’t hammer him and say that he should be spending when he wants to sell the club. You wouldn’t spend on your house when you want to sell it.”
@NUFC fans good morning to you all!! Ya clubs turning a profit, no debt, oh & playing in the PL! Terrible!
— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) January 13, 2019
Asked to defend his comments later on, as it was revealed that Ashley’s Sports Direct exclusively stock Ferdinand’s ‘FIVE’ clothing brand, the former defender replied:
“I don’t even know him! I don’t even know him really well,” he laughed.
“I will get to know him, but my issue is – it’s got nothing to do with, like, business dealings that I’ve got with his company – I just think that, listen, when they went down, he’s spent £50-odd-million to get them back up, of his own money. ‘Thank you’, that should be.”
When it was put to him that Newcastle actually generated more money through player sales than they spent on signings in the summer they were promoted, Ferdinand simply replied: “Well he’s the owner.
“You look down the road, last season or whatever, Sunderland, £1.2m they had to spend in the Championship.
“So he’s done that to get them back up. And, by the way, please say ‘thank you’ for getting Rafa Benitez in. Really, by rights, they’re lucky to have him.”
Put to him that Brighton and Huddersfield had spent considerably more net since all three were promoted in 2017, Ferdinand said: “Newcastle are a yo-yo club. Newcastle have been a yo-yo club for however many years, yeah?
“He doesn’t want to do that no more. He’s been there, done that and wants to move on.
“What’s the problem? He wants to sell the club, why should he go and spend millions of pounds?
“He’d spend £30m on a striker, £30m on a midfielder, as he’s trying to sell the club, and both of them get injured. That’s £60m down the drain. Would you do that? Would you do that?”