Newcastle might find some unexpected support when Premier League clubs come to vote on whether a Ruben Neves January transfer loophole should be shut.
Those poor Newcastle sods are being bullied again by their Premier League brethren, who insist that an upcoming vote on banning loan deals between associated clubs has nothing to do with the Magpies wanting to bring Ruben Neves in from Al-Hilal in January. It’s just one of those things. One of those hastily-called meetings to put interim measures in place. Happens all the time. What Neves loan? Oh that’s so awkward. Sorry. Had no idea.
The pessimistic Newcastle assumption is that another rule change will come into play which is designed to hamper them specifically, despite numerous clubs taking advantage of such loopholes for years. But Eddie Howe and company need not necessarily abandon their Neves plans. As with any vote, it will require a majority of at least 14 clubs to force a change in regulation. And the Magpies are not the only ones who stand to be affected.
Some other clubs have similar transfers lined up, others have to bear their future owners in mind and there are plenty more who might be reluctant to sacrifice potential deals of their own, just to thwart Newcastle now.
Ruben Neves to Newcastle
A transfer rumour almost willed into existence through sheer intrigue as to how much Newcastle are willing to contort themselves to slip through the latest Premier League loophole, and how much opposition fume they can generate doing it, Neves to St James’ Park via a brief Saudi detour was a problematic idea morphed into a genuine, change-forcing possibility by Sandro Tonali’s suspension.
Newcastle need a proven, Premier League-ready replacement for their banned £55m midfielder. Newcastle are controlled by PIF, who in turn took ownership of Saudi Arabia’s four leading clubs in the summer. Those four clubs embarked on ludicrously lavish transfer sprees in the summer. One of the excellent pawns tempted to the Middle East could be temporarily shifted across the board to Newcastle.
‘Neves will now always feel like a ‘what if?’ kind of player who could have achieved more,’ we lamented when criticising the Portuguese’s move to Al-Hilal in the summer. ‘Three hundred grand a week will probably stop him thinking too much about it, but not so much the rest of us. The Champions League dream was a noble one, and it’s gone now.
‘Unless of course he gets an entirely unsuspicious loan move to Newcastle in January. Then we can all be happy, can’t we?’
Well quite. Neves might technically not have the Champions League to include in any equation over a January move, such have been Newcastle’s struggles in Europe after a couple of sensational group results. But he would certainly be a phenomenal addition which would otherwise not even be a mid-season consideration if he and the Magpies did not occupy the same ownership sphere. The same can be said for other apparent targets in N’Golo Kante and Gabri Veiga.
That entirely undermines the idea that the upcoming Premier League vote has not been called specifically with Newcastle’s interest in Neves in mind. As sporting director Dan Ashworth said last week: “The current rules and regulations say there is nothing to stop it… currently.” Now it is just a case of whether at least 14 clubs are sufficiently enraged to vote to block it.
Arnau Martinez to Manchester City
Newcastle might find unlikely support in Manchester City, who are often presumed by Magpies fans to be at the forefront of attempts to ringfence the elite with these new regulation changes. As the flagship club in an ownership group which includes 11 other clubs across five different continents, the Treble winners would be shooting themselves in the foot somewhat by allowing any sort of impingement on their operations.
The November 21 vote might be an interim measure over loan moves this January, but The Athletic’s report adds that ‘some teams want the rules to extend to permanent transfers and cover two windows after the initial transaction takes place’. Manchester City will subsequently be wary of opening the door even slightly for fear that enough clubs might eventually push through and prevent the sort of transfers that have underpinned CFG’s success.
Across New York City FC, Melbourne City, Montevideo City Torque, Troyes, Lommel SK, Mumbai City, Girona, Sichuan Jiuniu, Yokohama F Marinos, Palermo and Bahia, Manchester City do have known interest in one player already under their umbrella.
Girona’s table-topping start in La Liga has caught the eye. Arnau Martinez has naturally attracted interest from Barcelona and Real Madrid, but Manchester City are keeping tabs on the Spanish youth international along with Arsenal and Liverpool.
That is hardly surprising, considering Martinez is excelling in a top European league at 20 years old and, as a right-back who can play in the centre, might be earmarked as a successor to Kyle Walker. Manchester City will thus tread carefully.
Habib Diarra to Chelsea
While Chelsea would instinctively be open to any alteration which would prevent a theoretical Champions League qualification rival from strengthening in the transfer market, there might even be sympathy to the Newcastle cause extending from Stamford Bridge.
It might come down to whether Todd Boehly can help himself and display any sort of restraint when the window reopens. His ambition to kickstart a multi-club model saw Ligue Un side Strasbourg pulled into his control in June, much to the disapproval of their supporters.
Without a win in five games and hovering precariously above the relegation zone, Strasbourg nevertheless boast enough young talents to distract Boehly into at least abstaining from any vote. Just think of the contract lengths which Abakar Sylla (20), Ismael Doukoure (20), Emanuel Emegha (20) and Dilane Bakwa (21) could be tied to; Angelo is already receiving rave reviews after being sent there on loan immediately after being signed by Chelsea in the summer.
Those are purely hypothetical links but Chelsea have been conclusively mentioned as frontrunners in the race for Habib Diarra’s signature. The versatile 19-year-old has admirers in Juventus and even Manchester City, while Boehly was reported to have blocked his planned move to Wolves.
‘It is believed Chelsea see Diarra as a top talent and were therefore not keen to see him move to Wolves in the summer window,’ Football Insider claimed in September. Not even Boehly is foolish enough to separate nose from face in spite – particularly if it would prevent him indulging in his favourite pastime of signing young footballers.
Jean-Clair Todibo to Manchester United
Some teams will proceed with caution and properly consider whether their vote stands to impact them directly in the future. Many Premier League clubs make up part of a multi-club ownership model but Arsenal might consider it worth throwing obstacles in front of Newcastle, even if it does prevent them loaning anyone from Colorado Rapids in January. Aston Villa could have the same thought process despite their links to Vitoria Guimaraes.
In their cases, the chance to hinder a direct competitor would far outweigh any hit taken in terms of signing players from their comparatively far weaker sister clubs.
Manchester United might be alone in having to look a little further ahead. Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS group is poised to purchase a 25% stake from the Glazers, tying it to the petrochemical billionaire’s other club: OGC Nice.
It is here where the waters might be muddied, considering Manchester United have identified Jean-Clair Todibo as their preferred centre-half target for January.
The France international has missed a single game for the unbeaten Nice this season, helping Francesco Farioli’s side concede just four goals in 11 games. Manchester United already faced a £44m bill to sign Todibo but this whole situation might complicate matters.
Casper Terho and Noah Sadiki to Brighton
The remaining rumours are purely conjecture on our part, simple linking of the dots which may nevertheless draw a completely erroneous picture. But multi-club ownership models have become so ubiquitous in modern football that it would be naive to suggest Newcastle are alone in trying to take advantage.
One of the most successful recent deployments of such investment has seen Tony Bloom crack the code so thoroughly that he had to relinquish his majority stake in Belgian club Union SG, after both they and Brighton qualified for the Europa League this season.
Brighton have already used their Union reps to help season Kaoru Mitoma and Simon Adingra, while also signing striker Deniz Undav and sending a few other less-heralded potential gems the other way.
The Seagulls will almost certainly have their eyes on Terho and Sadiki. The former is a 20-year-old Finnish winger who only joined from HJK Helsinki last winter, but has already impressed, while the latter is an 18-year-old defensive midfielder without whom Union would not be clear at the top of the league.
Both have featured against Liverpool in Europe this season; both are undoubtedly on the Brighton radar.
— Julian 🌪 (@RoyaleUSG) August 16, 2023
Marko Divkovic to Crystal Palace
Only Manchester City are in bed with more clubs than Crystal Palace. John Textor’s Eagle Football Holdings has stakes in Botafogo, Lyon and RWD Molenbeek, while David Blitzer is tied to clubs including Estoril Praia, ADO Den Haag, Real Salt Lake, Brondby and FC Augsburg. The American owners have cast their respective nets far and wide, even if they are struggling to gain the backing of fans of the clubs involved.
Palace might not wish to close themselves off from so many potential sellers. Divkovic is a prime example, the left-sided 24-year-old having scored two goals and assisted four for Danish Superliga’s current second-placed team Brondby so far this season.
Adnan Januzaj to Everton
Everton are another club whose projected and protracted takeover could sway their decision. If Miami-based 777 Partners ever do manage to convince anyone in authority that they are equipped to run yet more teams despite ample evidence to the contrary, then the Toffees will join a stable comprising Genoa, Hertha Berlin, Sevilla, Standard Liege, Melbourne Victory, Red Star and Vasco da Gama, in each of whom they hold at least minority stakes.
Sean Dyche might take a look at Kamal Sowah of Standard Liege, perhaps, but there are concrete reports of Everton interest in somehow-not-former-Toffees-player Adnan Januzaj. Sevilla want the winger gone and he has barely featured this season, opening the door to a triumphant Premier League return.
Andreas Ndoj to Nottingham Forest
Evangelos Mavrinakis has conducted 16 separate transfers between his clubs, Nottingham Forest and Olympiakos, since taking over the former in the summer of 2017. That number includes three moves in the most recent transfer window, with Gianluca Biancone, Omar Richards and Gustavo Scarpa all making their way to Greece.
The relationship has most often swayed that way but if Forest want to start taking advantages with a signing of their own, then 20-year-old centre-half Ndoj sounds fun. He has one red card in his only Europa League start this season and has helped keep five clean sheets in his six Greek league starts, the exception being a 3-0 Panathinaikos thrashing, when he was substituted after 50 minutes with a booking. Perfect.
Jan Kuchta to West Ham
Czech energy tycoon Daniel Kretinsky is the second-largest shareholder at West Ham with the 27% stake he purchased in November 2021. That deal included an option for a full takeover, which is yet to be exercised and has an unknown expiry date.
Kretinsky already has a sizeable share in Sparta Prague as chairman since 2004. West Ham themselves have used their claret connections before to sign Vladimir Labant in January 2002 and send him straight back that December, while Tomas Repka sandwiched spells with the Hammers and Fiorentina between a couple of Sparta stints.
Fast forward to 2023 and West Ham need a striker not named Michail Antonio. Some fella called Jan Kuchta has five goals and five assists in 12 Fortuna Liga games, as well as experience in European competition. He will very much do. Newcastle might as well bank on that Hammers vote now.