Newcastle United have designs on being the kind of club that can do the biggest deals in football, but they may get their way in a manner they don’t really want.
If the club agree to Manchester United’s demands for Jesse Lingard, which involve a bonus of £12m if Newcastle stay up, it would work out at being worth £1m a week for four months. That would make the 29-year-old the most expensive player in the world, at least until May.
Newcastle are reluctant to pay this, especially with the way they feel they’re being treated in the market in general. They’re being quoted higher prices, and being used as leverage in negotiations.
Put bluntly, everyone can see them coming.
That may apply in two ways, though.
It is not just about extracting the maximum possible money off Newcastle now. It is about the future, and what the Saudi Arabia-owned club can grow into.
Given that Lingard scored nine goals in 16 Premier League games for West Ham United last season, the Old Trafford hierarchy are confident that the winger can keep Newcastle up.
They naturally believe that has an extra value of its own. The right investment now could be worth over £100m to Newcastle in the summer, not to mention the sheer pricelessness of being able to get this project going properly from within the Premier League. Relegation, by contrast, could bring a lot more problems than just delays.
The question Old Trafford officials have put to Newcastle, then, is how much is survival worth to them.
It is unfortunate that it is Lingard in the middle of this. He has been a loyal United player for 21 years, and everyone who knows him says he is a good lad, who really just wants to play football now and advance his career.
United’s refusal to sell to Champions League rivals such as West Ham or Tottenham Hotspur has basically left him with Newcastle as the only option for this season. There is also a belief on his side that some of this is United looking to recoup value since he is letting his contract run down.
That runs alongside a school of thought that the Old Trafford hierarchy have changed their strategy on sales, which will also apply to players like midfielder Donny van de Beek. They know that the value of staying in the Premier League is so huge, and at least half the clubs are so desperate to stay in it, that they can charge exorbitantly high prices.
That points to one comment that has been made in the talks around Lingard, that Newcastle – for all their complaints – want “diamonds for coal prices”. There have also been reminders that Newcastle themselves quoted United £50m for Sean Longstaff, the 24-year-old central midfielder, a few years ago. Old Trafford officials say they have been quoted such prices for years, and this is the new reality that Newcastle have to get used to. It’s another price of being so wealthy.
Others around the Premier League believe it is about even more than that - and about wider views on the new Newcastle.
While Manchester United insist they are only looking after their own interests and looking to recoup fair value, more than a few sources in the game say it is one area where the interests of the top clubs align.
The argument is that they know Newcastle can be a real threat in the future, and that relegation would delay the project – perhaps even derail it. As such, they're not going to make anything easy for them.
This is not to say it is true of Manchester United. They just want what they see as value, and some in the industry believe it is a markedly shrewd approach. As one connected figure said, “it's one of the smartest moves United have made in years”.
Again, they know Newcastle are coming, like much of the game.
The truth is no one in Europe is making any deal easy for them, and it doesn’t just apply to the prices quoted. Even Lyon have been tough in the negotiations for defensive midfielder Bruno Guimaraes.
On the other side, sources state Newcastle “are now fully aware of how hated they are”.
It didn’t take much to figure out. The bigger question to figure out now, it would seem, is just how much survival is worth to them.
It may take the sort of deal they would normally have dreamed of, but just not in this manner.
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