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Newcastle to target Willian, Mertens, Cavani after takeover — report

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It’s 2003 all over again!

Chelsea FC v Newcastle United - Premier League Photo by Chris Lee - Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Over the last few weeks, there have been intense talks about the takeover of Newcastle United (this time for real, it seems) by PCP Capital Partners, from long-time (and long-disliked) owner, Mike Ashley. PCP Capital Partners are a consortium backed by Saudi Arabia, and controlled by Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The consortium, whose assets are worth $320 billion, will be paying a reported £300m for an 80 per cent stake in the club, which will likely make Newcastle the most financially well-backed club in the Premier League.

Of course, a fresh influx of money usually means a fresh influx of players and managers, with new owners always keen to emphasize to supporters that they mean business. We have first-hand experience of this from 2003 and beyond, and something similar might be about to take place up north as well.

While an Abramovich-style spending spree isn’t really possible anymore, FFP restrictions have been temporarily taken down due to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that could give the new owners some space to flex their muscles.

With the likes of Rafa Benítez, Lucien Favre, Mauricio Pochettino and Massimiliano Allegri are touted as potential replacements for Steve Bruce, the owners are also looking to bring in some proven quality to improve the squad. As per a report from ESPN FC, the three names at or near the top of that shortlist are PSG spare part Edinson Cavani, rumored Chelsea target Dries Mertens, and Chelsea’s own Willian, whose contract is up at the end of the season.

While the sale of Newcastle United is not yet complete, that appears to be little more than a formality at this point. The real work in rebuilding the storied club starts then. It will be fascinating (and a bit frightening) to see if the new owners can sail through the muddy waters of football and morality, and whether the Magpies can truly reap the benefits of their sudden riches. The English football landscape could be shifting once again, and Willian could be playing a part in it.

(That said, I’d be happier if he joined Newcastle than any of our London rivals.)