EDDIE HOWE has confirmed Newcastle United’s liking for Ruben Neves, but insisted the club will not attempt to circumvent Premier League regulations if a new rule is introduced preventing them from signing the midfielder in January.

With Sandro Tonali unavailable for the remainder of the season after breaching gambling regulations, Newcastle are keen to sign a central midfielder when the transfer window reopens at the turn of the year, with Neves one of the players currently under serious consideration.

However, while a loan move for the 26-year-old would currently be possible, that will no longer be the case if an anticipated rule change is voted through at a Premier League shareholders’ meeting later this month.


The meeting on November 21 will feature a vote on a temporary ban on teams loaning a player from a club that is under the same ownership. Neves currently plays in the Saudi Arabian league for Al-Hilal, one of the four Pro League clubs whose majority owners, the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, are also the majority owners of Newcastle.

The vote on the temporary ban will be passed if it is supported by 14 of the 20 Premier League clubs, and while Newcastle are expected to vote against the proposal, it is anticipated that it will garner enough support to be introduced.

“It’s difficult for me to give you chapter and verse on this because it’s not a situation I’m in any control over,” said Howe. “I’m reacting to what is happening, and it’s probably better that you draw conclusions on that, not me.

“What I would say is that we will work within the rules the Premier League set and we have to respect those rules, whatever they are.”

The move by a number of Premier League clubs to try to outlaw the process of loaning players from related parties is a controversial one as a number of top-flight sides have benefited from it in the past.

Watford regularly exchanged players with Italian side Udinese during their time in the top-flight when the Pozzo family were majority owners of both teams, while Manchester City have a formal feeder-club relationship with other teams in the Abu Dhabi-owned City Football Group that also features the likes of New York City, Melbourne City and Girona as well as the current Premier League champions. Brighton owner, Tony Bloom, has a minority stake in Union Saint-Gilloise, with Kaoru Mitoma having been loaned to the Belgian side prior to his breakthrough at the Amex.

Given that the Premier League has already changed its rules in the wake of Newcastle’s Saudi takeover to tighten up the regulations governing third-party sponsorship arrangements, it feels as though this month’s vote on loans is another attempt by some of England’s leading clubs to limit the Magpies’ expansion opportunities.

However, Howe would not be drawn on the suggestion that a number of Newcastle’s Premier League rivals are running scared of the club’s new financial status.

“I wouldn’t know the motives behind the rule changes coming in,” he said. “It’s very difficult for me to give a definitive opinion, we just have to react to the changes as they come in.

“We are here to compete on the pitch, and all of these things we are discussing are off the pitch. That's why it is difficult me to give you an answer that is clear and concise. I'm not involved in those talks - I just see and hear things in the media like you are.

“So, that’s where I have to be careful and draw a line what I can talk about. I'm not involved in that world, I'm involved in the football world. We want to compete on the pitch within the rules that are set for us.”

Howe was, however, prepared to concede that Newcastle had looked into the possibility of signing Neves from Wolves in the summer and remain admirers of the Portugal international. Neves joined al-Hilal in a £47m move from Molineux in June.

“It’s difficult to talk about one individual player, but yes, he’s (Neves) definitely a player that we liked when he was at Wolves.

“At this stage though, I honestly don’t have any plans for January because it’s such a moving thing. We don’t have clearly identified targets because there are too many moving parts at this stage.

“There’s a lot of football to be played, and injuries, from our side, where players may or may not return. It’s very difficult for us to have finalised those plans at this moment in time.”