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'By not acquiring players, Newcastle are simply piling up problems'
WHEN Alan Pardew reflected on Yohan Cabaye's departure to Paris St Germain in his post-match press conference at Carrow Road on Tuesday, he said the following: “We are going to have to use this money to good effect to make us better. That is how we are going to have to try to break into the Champions League.”
There is a debate to be had about the extent of Newcastle United's ambitions under Mike Ashley, but one thing is abundantly clear. The club can forget about the Champions League. Blindly adhere to the current model for another few seasons, and the Championship would appear a more likely destination.
You don't see Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool or Manchester United selling their best players, and when Tottenham did, they secured a world-record fee and bought an entire new team with the proceeds.
Newcastle do things rather differently, and Cabaye's £20m exit follows a pattern that was already well established thanks to the previous departures of Andy Carroll and Demba Ba.
It was hardly a surprise to receive confirmation that Ashley had accepted PSG's improved offer for his club's best player, more a sense of numbing disappointment. This is the way of it at St James' Park, with every player having their price and a glass ceiling existing beyond which the ambitions of a talented player cannot be sated. Hence, their desire to move on.
That is not to say that Ashley's modus operandi is not without its merits. Newcastle were on the brink of financial meltdown thanks to the wastefulness that occurred under Freddy Shepherd's watch, and there are plenty of examples of clubs that have collapsed almost to the point of oblivion because they didn't have an owner able to exercise budgetary constraint.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with selling players when they are at the peak of their value, and Cabaye was certainly in that position given that he was about to enter the final two years of his contract and could potentially have freed himself for around £6m in the summer.
It's what happens next that is the key to moving forward though, and that is where Newcastle's model appears to be teetering on the brink of collapse. If you sell one great player and replace him with four good ones, you can claim to be making progress. If you simply bank the money and no one comes in, you will inevitably start to go backwards at a pace.
Perhaps there will be a surprise in store today. Maybe Newcastle will stump up the £15m that looks like being required to sign Clement Grenier or table a too-good-to-refuse offer to prise Remy Cabella from Montpellier.
Let's be honest though, on all available evidence, the chances of either of those things happening are slender. Much more likely is that Newcastle will head into the summer not having made a permanent signing for 18 months. Instead of acquiring players, the Magpies are simply piling up problems.
They still need a top-class striker to replace Ba, and come the close season, there's every chance they'll need two if, as looks likely, Loic Remy opts to look elsewhere. Indeed, with Shola Ameobi due to become a free agent, Papiss Cisse far from settled after 18 months of strife and no guarantees that Luuk de Jong will rediscover the form he displayed at FC Twente, it's not inconceivable that Newcastle could be heading into pre-season with barely a striker on their books. Good luck with trying to solve that on the cheap.
There'll be a need for a top-class creative midfielder if Cabaye is not replaced this month, and with Jonas Gutierrez, Gabriel Obertan and Sylvain Marveaux all unlikely to feature beyond the end of the current campaign, a lack of depth in midfield will surely necessitate further additions.
And let's not even begin to ponder what will happen to Fabricio Coloccini, whose desire to return to South America has not abated in the last 12 months.
Newcastle's failure to act in the last two transfer windows will turn this summer into a pivotal one, but does anyone really envisage Ashley releasing the £100m-or-so that will be required to plug the gaps within the squad if the Magpies are genuinely serious about challenging for the Champions League?
Even if they adhere to their policy of signing young, continental talent, you're still looking at a hefty outlay, and entering into a scenario where you're throwing together a host of unproven players and hoping they hit the ground running. Otherwise, as last season proved, things can start to go wrong very quickly.
There is another aspect to consider here, and that is the elephant in the room that otherwise goes by the name of Joe Kinnear. Let's be honest, we were always going to get on to him eventually.
Since his much-trumpeted appointment as director of football, Kinnear has not signed a single senior player permanently. Not one. Brought in to “get transfers over the line”, he increasingly looks like an impediment to the successful resolution of a transfer negotiation.
Derek Llambais had his faults, but at least he could cut a deal. Kinnear has no such business acumen, and the whispers about Newcastle's increasingly chaotic recruitment process are becoming more and more alarming.
Who is in charge? Who takes the lead in financial discussions? Who is capable of sitting opposite a player and convincing them to choose Newcastle?
Save for an ill-advised briefing to Sky Sports News, which has subsequently proved farcically incorrect, it is impossible to know what Kinnear has been doing this month.
Come the summer though, he will be charged with the task of rebuilding the club. It is a shuddering thought, but with Pardew powerless and Ashley aloof, it is the corner Newcastle have painted themselves into.
CHAMP OF THE WEEK
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CHUMP OF THE WEEK
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PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
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BET OF THE WEEKEND
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