- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Javier Manquillo says Newcastle do not care if they become the most “hated” team in the Premier League as hostility to the club’s controversial Saudi-led takeover grows.
Manquillo is not bothered by the social media potshots and the boardroom wrangling and is instead determined to keep seeing the sunny side of the remarkable £305million investment.
“I understand that this operation will arouse antipathy or hatred,” Manquillo tells Telegraph Sport. “But we are not going to stop enjoying this period because of this.”
That Manquillo’s defiance evokes the Millwall chant of the 1980s - “No-one likes us, we don’t care” - points to a growing siege mentality in a club looking increasingly isolated off the pitch.
Their standing in the Premier League was underlined on Monday when 18 of the 20 top-flight clubs united to vote through a ban on owner-led sponsors. It means the Saudi Arabian consortium are likely to be blocked from funneling money into the club through in-house lucrative shirt deals.
On the pitch, meanwhile, problems continue to mount with the club winless in the league this season and still employing a manager disliked by his own fans who was widely expected to be sacked in the days following the takeover.
“We are all professionals, Steve the first,” he says. “He knows that the situation is not easy and even more so now that there is talk of his dismissal, but we are not getting carried away by the rumours.”
Reports emerged on Monday that a group of players unhappy with Bruce’s tactics confronted the manager in the wake of their 3-2 defeat to Tottenham on Sunday. Manquillo, though, insists the squad “support him without hesitation”.
“He’s working normally, he wants to start to get back on track and we’ll see what happens in the end,” the Spaniard adds. “I have read that there is talk of Gerrard and Lampard, but our manager now is Steve Bruce and we support him without hesitation.”
For all the harsh reality confronting Newcastle today, the fact still remains that they are the richest team in the world. Fans can be forgiven for playing fantasy football with the Saudi money - but what about Manquillo?
Has he dreamt of who the newly-minted club could buy? “If you ask me who I’d sign for Newcastle, I’d go for [Kylian] Mbappe and I’d go for [Erling] Haaland. If it was a PlayStation team I’d also go for Messi and Cristiano, but the youngsters who stand out the most right now are those two.”
Such talk leaves players like Manquillo in a fascinating position. The defender has been at Newcastle for four years now and, at 27, is an established Premier League player. But if money is no object then surely the Spaniard must feel vulnerable.
Not so, he insists. “Undoubtedly everyone wants to be part of this new phase, which is exciting for all of us,” Manquillo says. “I’ve been at Newcastle for a long time, I feel at home, and now that there is a new project we would all love to continue.
“I don’t know how long it will take but this operation is aimed at Newcastle being able to compete for the Premier League and we want to live it.
“A few weeks ago we were a normal club and now we are the richest club in the world. It sounds like science fiction but these changes happen sometimes. It’s good news for Newcastle because from now on the team will get better and better.”
Manquillo, the eternal optimist, is keen to strike one note of caution - even if it comes cloaked in the bold claim that Newcastle will one day aim to challenge for major European honours.
“This has to go slowly,” he says. “Obviously I think in the medium term, after four or five years the intention of the club is to be able to bring in the big stars of football.
“We have two clear examples to bear in mind: both Manchester City and PSG did not become leading clubs in Europe overnight. Everything has its process and I imagine the same thing will happen to Newcastle. I’m talking about these two teams because the new owners said in their first interview that the goal was ambitious.”