Newcastle will need the Saudi megabucks for Stage Two in their quest for everything

Will Ford

Should Newcastle qualify for the Champions League this season they will have completed Stage One in double-quick time. Stage Two in their quest for everything is going to cost a pretty penny.

Newcastle are having a good season, eh? Better than good really. They have a great chance of not only breaking the Big Six stranglehold on the Premier League but finishing above three of them and qualifying for the Champions League at what is essentially their first attempt. No-one thought Newcastle would be in this position after being taken over in October 2021, at which point they were 19th on three points after seven games.

They’ve spent big – around €250m – but not that big considering how far they’ve risen. Apart from Chris Wood, who was pretty quickly made redundant by the return to full fitness of Callum Wilson and the signing of Alexander Isak, and Matt Targett, who is at least a serviceable back-up full-back, all of the players signed under the Saudi regime have improved Newcastle. But many of them were Stage One signings.

They were players bought to challenge for European qualification: Stage One. But many of the players signed in the last year, as well as some bought under Mike Ashley who have thrived under Eddie Howe’s stewardship, are not fit for Stage Two of Newcastle’s quest, which should see them become serious contenders for the Premier League and Champions League.

Because that is going to happen. Whether it’s in the next couple of years under Howe or in five under someone else, Newcastle have too much money not to be competing for the top prizes. And they will need better players to do so.

The problem for many of those currently at Newcastle, and admittedly it doesn’t sound much like a problem, is that they’ve been too good. Another problem for many of those same players is that it feels as though we are currently watching them at their peak. How much more do Joelinton, Dan Burn, Joe Willock or Sean Longstaff have to give? Their best sees Newcastle battling for the top four and at this rate that won’t be good enough come this time next year. If only they had taken longer to get to this juncture.

Dan Burn’s is an interesting case in that he’s an undoubtedly brilliant signing, who has markedly improved the team, but who could be surplus to requirements after one excellent season. And he is not the only one.

Is this the real Miguel Almiron, or was Jack Grealish’s impression closer to the norm? Allan Saint-Maximin’s deemed barely fit for this stage by Howe, let alone the next. How would Longstaff and Willock fare against the best midfielders in Europe? Joelinton’s redemption story, sweet though it’s been, doesn’t make him fit for Champions League football. The build-from-the-back obsessives will question whether even Nick Pope has what it takes to play for a team challenging for major honours.

Newcastle will have to spend big to get to Stage Two. So far, only Alexander Isak has cost them more than €45m, because so far they haven’t needed to spend more than that on individual players to significantly improve the squad and team. But as was the case with Isak, the most recent arrival at €70m, the more you want to improve, the more expensive players become. And crucially, the better you become the more competition there will be for new additions, as big clubs take note of your successes. It won’t be so easy to snap up a Bruno Guimaraes or a Sven Botman in the coming windows.

Should they qualify for the top four, Newcastle will need their owners to stump up for so much more, because Stage Two will be beyond them until they do.