The takeover of Newcastle United by the Saudi Arabian Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is reportedly nudging to an imminent conclusion despite already courting controversy from around the world.
Long suffering Toon Army fans will no doubt be in dreamland about the endless riches and mouth-watering possibilities that could soon be bestowed upon their football club with Mike Ashley’s miserable tenure heading for the history books.
One man who may not be so delighted to usher in this brave new world is Steve Bruce. The current Newcastle manager was not exactly everybody’s first choice to replace Rafa Benitez last summer. However, despite the ire aimed at the former Sunderland boss, it’s fair to say he’s done alright this season. The Magpies have largely steered clear of real relegation trouble and have even threatened in the FA Cup, creating at least some murmurs of approval from the terraces.
Yet new owners normally want their own man at the helm and just as with Mark Hughes at Manchester City, it’s only a matter of time before PIF go shopping for someone new in the dugout. Here is a look at five candidates who could replace Bruce.
If the prospective new owners wanted to make a statement of intent from day one, the Italian would be their man. The 52-year-old would be an elite level appointment having won a host of major honours with Juventus during a glorious five year stint in Turin.
The Italian has won six league titles, four domestic cups and reached two Champions League finals in his managerial career. His name has cropped up in recent years for other Premier League vacancies and with the potential budgets to work with at Newcastle, he could well be tempted to migrate over if the opportunity comes his way.
Allegri has admitted to taking English lessons since leaving Juve last summer so the language barrier shouldn’t be an issue, and his motivation certainly wouldn’t be lacking, while big-name players may be tempted to follow him to the North East.
Could this finally be the chance for Rafa to fulfil his Newcastle ambition? The 60-year-old spectacularly quit St James’s Park last summer, ignoring pleas from smitten Geordies for him to stay. The Spaniard felt promises had not been kept as he became yet another high profile departure of the Ashley regime.
An emotional return was often suggested for Benitez at Liverpool but it never ultimately panned out that way. The allure of ambitious, wealthy owners coupled with Rafa’s connection to the Newcastle faithful could be a perfect match and offer a chance for him to complete some of that unfinished business with the Magpies.
Like Allegri, Rafa’s CV speaks for itself with 12 trophies won in a managerial career spanning over twenty years. It would certainly be a popular call should anything come of it.
A bit left of field, but Eddie Howes’ achievements cannot be overlooked. The Bournemouth manager has confounded all expectation by dragging his team from the brink of insolvency in the bottom tier to being an established Premier League outfit.
His relegation struggles this term may have blotted his copybook somewhat, but his squad has been decimated with injury and still remains within a reasonable shout of avoiding the drop with nine games still to play. A record of 54 league wins in five seasons and three manager of the month awards is testament to the job Howe has performed on the south coast.
His name has been tenuously linked to the Arsenal and Everton vacancies in the past but perhaps now is the time for the now 42-year-old to prove himself at the next level. His open style of football would go down well with the Toon Army and he is a popular manager with the media, both factors could buy him some time to settle in should the opportunity come his way.
If Howe is left of field Kevin Keegan is a sentimental bolt out of the blue. King Kev, the Messiah, the lovable architect of the nineties entertainers; Keegan is simply idolized on Tyneside. His name was spectacularly linked with a return to the Newcastle hot seat over the weekend.
While attracting former big names to the club would certainly help construct a sheen of authenticity for the prospective new owners, Keegan has been out of the game for an awfully long time and would be a tad risky, to say the least. His last foray into management was with Newcastle back in 2008 and ended with an acrimonious departure after just 22 league games.
This was followed by a drawn-out legal dispute between Ashley and Keegan relating to unfair dismissal. The former England manager would go on to describe Ashley’s ownership as “an empire of self-harm” in his autobiography as he made his feelings towards the retail tycoon crystal clear.
With Ashley soon to be gone, there is at least a possibility of a sensational return for King Kev, even then though, the chances remain entirely remote at this stage.
Mauricio Pochettino would be an easy sell to both the prospective new owners and loyal Newcastle supporters who yearn for stylish football. Following a string of poor results, the Argentine was dismissed by Spurs in November 2019 in what felt like a mutually unsatisfactory conclusion to a Premier League success story.
Pochettino was the first manager in the Premier League era to keep Spurs consistently challenging in the top four. His run to the Champions League final last season defied all expectation, whilst some of the football exhibited by his team during a eventful five years in North London was simply superb.
No stranger to building teams from foundation level up, the only thing missing on Pohchettino’s CV is major honours. However, a win rate of just over 54% with Spurs is nothing to be sniffed at. A meticulous, determined approach on the training and a clearly defined football ideology could be just what Newcastle need as they stand on the cusp of a new era in their history.