How Saudi-backed Newcastle rose from the depths of the EPL to qualify for Champions League

The Tyneside club were languishing in 19th place in the English Premier League when Saudi's Investment Fund secured an 80% stake two seasons ago and began to rebuild

By Reuters

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Newcastle United's Saudi Arabian chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan and directors Amanda Stavely, Mehrdad Ghodoussi and Jamie Reuben celebrate after the team qualified for the Champions League.- Reuters
Newcastle United's Saudi Arabian chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan and directors Amanda Stavely, Mehrdad Ghodoussi and Jamie Reuben celebrate after the team qualified for the Champions League.- Reuters

Published: Tue 23 May 2023, 6:54 PM

When Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund bought a significant stake in Newcastle United in 2021, they developed a strategic vision to help keep the team focused on achieving their goals.

The initial task was to ensure that the four-times English champions remained in the top flight of the Premier League with qualification for the Champions League being of equal importance.


However, even head coach Eddie Howe could not have foreseen the club's remarkable transformation that saw them secure their place back amongst Europe's elite on Monday.

A 0-0 draw at home to Leicester City meant Newcastle will finish in the Premier League's top four and will be mixing it with the continent's big guns for the first time in two decades.


After celebrating on the St James' Park pitch with his players, Howe was asked what the targets had been back in August.

"Certainly wasn't (top four)," the former Bournemouth manager told Sky Sports. "You always hope and always believe and you have to dream. But we didn't feel we were ready for that.

"After last season's battle against relegation, it really was whether we could consolidate and become a better team and not flirt with relegation like last season.

"I can't praise (the players) enough for that mentality, their attitude what they've given me and the club."

When Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund bought an 80% stake in Newcastle in October 2021, ending Mike Ashley's barren 14-year ownership of the North East club, the team were 19th in the table and without a win. Steve Bruce was shortly sacked and replaced by Howe.

Even then it took Newcastle until the 15th game of the season to get a league win, but after that, with the help of some astute signings such as England right back Kieran Trippier, Brazil midfielder Bruno Guimaraes and defender Dan Burn, the fog that had shrouded the Tyneside club finally began to lift.

Newcastle eventually finished 11th and the momentum carried into this season with the club splashing some of the Saudi cash on club record purchase Swedish striker Alexander Isak.

While, on paper, Newcastle have riches to rival any club in the world, they have not yet signed the sort of galactico players the fans might have been dreaming about.

But the likes of Isak, former Burnley keeper Nick Pope and defender Sven Botman have enhanced Howe's squad.

They began to turn a succession of draws at the start of the season into wins and apart from a mid-season dip when the goals dried up, Newcastle have been a model of consistency.

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The fact they have finished above the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, speaks volumes for Howe's impact and he can now start planning for the next step.

"We have to recruit wisely which we have done in every window so far," Howe said. "But the next window will be the hardest. We know next season the challenge will be bigger."

While Newcastle's first top-four finish in the Premier League since 2003 sparked celebrations on Monday, Howe said the next step is to deliver a first major trophy since 1955 after falling in the League Cup final this year.

"I want success massively for this football club," Howe said. "So we'll try that. I feel like we've achieved something great but there's no trophy. We'll enjoy tonight be we want to bring silverware here in the future."


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