Omani interest in Newcastle played down by City sources

While speculation on Tyneside yesterday continued to focus on a possible Newcastle United takeover by an unknown group from Oman, City of London insiders close to the sale of the club indicated that this may not be the case.

There is believed to be an interested party but it was stressed that a deal is still some way off and that the nationality of the leading players in any buyout will remain a secret for as long as is possible in such a high-profile transaction.

The Newcastle owner, Mike Ashley, put the club back on the market a week after relegation from the Premier League at an asking price of £100m. The Sultan of Oman was immediately linked with them due to his wealth but doubt has been cast upon his involvement.

It has been suggested that the business environment today is more favourable than when the club was put on the market for the first time by Ashley last September. Then the asking price started at £300m and dropped swiftly to £180m. But although there was interest, there were no takers. Now, however, there is confidence that a buyer can be found over the summer.

Alan Shearer, meanwhile, awaits a response from the banks to Ashley's request for the continuation of a £40m working capital facility. That would enable Ashley to appoint Shearer on a permanent basis, if he wants to.

Shearer could be given a long-term contract with the necessary clauses in the event of a takeover. That would give Newcastle some stability and Shearer could start working on lifting the club back into the Premier League following their relegation. He could also focus on trying to retain some of the players he sees as being key to the club's future.

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