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The Mail on Sunday - 2021-10-10

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New owners plot talent-grab as Bruce faces axe

Newcastle’s Saudi Sale

By Rob Draper CHIEF FOOTBALL WRITER

GRAEME JONES is likely to be in charge as caretaker manager when Newcastle United take on Tottenham at St James’ Park next Sunday in the first game of the club’s new era under Saudi Arabian owners. Steve Bruce’s reign is drawing to a close but the appointment of a new manager to fit the ambitions of the owners may take some time, with the most favoured candidates, such as Leicester’s Brendan Rodgers, currently unavailable. Antonio Conte is understood not to be a candidate and it is unlikely that former Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe will be considered. Despite Rafa Benitez’s close links to Amanda Staveley, the PCP Capital Partners chief executive who has driven the takeover deal and is on the club’s new board of directors, the Everton manager will not leave the club he committed to in the summer. It was when Benitez was in charge at Newcastle four years ago that PCP’s interest in the club was sparked by the desire to unlock the club’s potential, but it is accepted by all parties that the former boss is a non-starter. Bruce met Staveley last week but only briefly and not for substantive discussions. Staveley is expected to hold talks with him this week and she will address the players in midweek when they return from a short break, with Smith, Bruce’s assistant, expected to be in charge by the weekend. Frank McParland, former Liverpool academy director and most recently director of recruitment at Rangers, will lead the managerial search. Premier League experience is seen as important given that, while the long-term ambition is to win trophies, the immediate priority is to avoid relegation. Owen Brown, who worked with Benitez at Liverpool and who is agent to Phil Foden, has been PCP’s football consultant and will retain an advisory role. Those advisers will report to Staveley and the board, which is chaired by Yasir Al-Rumayyan, of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, who own 80 per cent of the shares in Newcastle. Staveley’s PCP own 10 per cent and she sits on the board with Jamie Reuben, representing Reuben Brothers, who own the remaining 10 per cent. Reuben was previously on the board at QPR and is the son of billionaire property investor David Reuben. The Premier League have accepted that PIF are a separate entity to the Saudi state even though the chairman of PIF is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia who was cited by US intelligence as being behind the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in Turkey in 2018. If it were conceded that the Crown Prince was the owner of Newcastle United, it would stretch the credulity of the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test, which disqualifies anyone who has engaged in conduct outside the UK that would constitute a criminal offence here. Those rules will come under increasing scrutiny when MP Tracey Crouch’s fan-led review of football governance reports this month and is expected to recommend an independent football regulator. Newcastle’s owners are likely to draw up plans for a new training ground, which will draw inspiration from Leicester’s £100million state-of-the-art centre. In terms of player recruitment, Newcastle are likely to target the best Premier League talent available outside the Big Six clubs in January, accepting it will be impossible to recruit the world’s best players at this stage. There will be no equivalent of Manchester City’s then Britishrecord £32.5million signing of Robinho, the Brazilian arriving to much fanfare but little output in the immediate aftermath of Sheik Mansour’s takeover in 2008. Newcastle are more likely to follow City’s later route of a more measured growth by degrees, attracting the best available now and then upgrading targets once they have qualified for the Europa League or Champions League. Though player recruitment is at an early stage, the calibre of player they will target would be Leicester’s Youri Tielemans, who is out of contract next summer, or Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher, currently on loan at Crystal Palace.

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