Newcastle, Saudi link downplayed as chief laments ‘casual perception’ Neves will ‘want’ to join Magpies

Jason Soutar
Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe applauds the fans.
Eddie Howe applauds the fans.

Saudi Arabian football chief Michael Emenalo insists there is no secret masterplan to send the best Pro League players to Newcastle United in January.

There has been a lot of talk surrounding Al Hilal midfielder Ruben Neves, who is reportedly a transfer target for the Magpies.

The January signing of the former Wolves captain seems unlikely and transfer expert David Ornstein said on Thursday that it is “not happening”.

“Neves is not happening – never say never but I doubt Newcastle will sign anyone from the Saudi Pro League next month, for multiple reasons – and they have not moved on [Kalvin] Phillips so far,” Ornstein said.

Newcastle are owned by PIF, who also run the four biggest clubs in Saudi Arabia, which has caused a bit of a stir amidst links to Neves.

Emenalo was asked about potential sales to the Geordies, insisting that Saudi Pro League clubs will listen to any offers from any club.

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“I can’t speak for PIF, only because they have representatives who are a lot smarter than I am and who understand what is going on,” he told Sky Sports.

“I don’t think the club and the processes are aligned as causally as you are suggesting it. There is a separation in management, but again, that is not for me to describe.

“What is clear is with our clubs, if anybody wants our players, then we will listen to them. And if we want a player from Fulham or Burnley, hopefully they will listen – and the same for Newcastle.

“If they want to talk to players at clubs owned by PIF or owned by somebody else, it’s open for discussion. There are no limitations, it’s just an organic process of football market investigation. There’s nothing else to read into it.

“It is quite casual with the perception there is that there is a link between the four clubs here and Newcastle.”

Asked if there is a secret masterplan to help Newcastle land players like Neves or Cristiano Ronaldo, Emenalo replied: “Absolutely not, and these players would cost a lot of money and maybe they wouldn’t want to go to Newcastle.

“People are neglecting the independence and decision-making of the players themselves.”

On the January transfer window and discussions with players, Emenalo added: “What we want to emphasise is this league isn’t only going to be built on player acquisitions. It’s going to have foundations that include improvements in infrastructure that look to the future, that the league and clubs are able to develop their own players.

“Acquisitions of foreign players is a big part of what we want to do, but it’s not the aspect we’re focused on. What we do in this coming window could also depend on manoeuvres in terms of players moving out to be able to bring players in.

“We are not shying away… but we are always ready to make signings and we have the capability to go in and compete [in the January market].”

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