Newcastle target 'marquee players' but they won't come cheap
Eddie Howe believes this summer will be the toughest yet for Newcastle United’s recruitment team as he stressed the elite players he wants to maintain their upward trajectory “will not be cheap”.
For the first time, Howe admitted his team have “massively overachieved” this season by securing a Champions League place and reaching the final of the Carabao Cup.
And he wants the club's board to be ambitious in their recruitment as he warned they will be in trouble if they do not strengthen a squad that will, for the first time in more than a decade, have the extra burden and distractions of European football.
With that in mind, one of the favourites to be named Premier League manager of the year indicated he is looking at “marquee” names to improve the starting XI.
“Yeah, there would be players we’d love to bring in that would be classified in that [marquee name] bracket I’m sure,” Howe said. “For me, it’s more about the role they can fulfil in the team, whether that’s viewed positively or as a marquee signing then great.
“I’m not in my mind thinking: 'We have to have one of those players that ticks that box for the supporters.' As much as I’d love to do that, it’s about finding the right player in the right position who I think makes us better.
“Going into last summer, I had a vision and the reality was different at the end, but I was really pleased at the end when the window shut. I was like: 'We have done some really good work here.'
'The pool of players we have to select from is very small'
“That's going to need to be repeated. This will be our hardest window to date. In my mind, there is no doubt about that because the pool of players we have to select from is very small.
“Unfortunately, players don’t come cheap, especially good players. We are going to have to spend a certain amount of money. How much that is I don’t know. I still don’t know what my budget is at this moment in time but there will have to be some expenditure.
“It will have to be controlled. It will have to be under FFP restrictions, which we have worked under and will continue to work under. They are definitely impacting us and what we will be able to do.”
Newcastle have tended to play down their spending power potential heading into every transfer window since the takeover by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in October 2021. But the extra income generated by playing in the Champions League, as well as a new £25 million a year shirt sponsorship deal due to be unveiled in the next few days, will unleash a large transfer budget.
Howe, inevitably, refused to be drawn on specific targets or positions that he wants to address but two midfielders, a left back and a right-sided centre back are thought to be the minimum requirements. A versatile forward is also being extensively researched.
'We have massively overachieved this year'
“I think we have massively overachieved this year,” he explained. “For where we were at the start of the season and to keep overachieving – and that's what we're going to have to do to match the expectation – is going to be our biggest challenge.
“I’m not telling you [what I want to do], but I’ve got a clear vision in my head of what we need and it’s obviously important that I know.
“But it’s important we also work in a discreet way. There are areas of the squad that aren’t strong enough in terms of depth. I’d love to try and improve the team as well before we kick off next year because as I’ve said the competition is going to get harder. But I don’t want to break up the core fabric of what we have got either. It’s very delicate but we need to be stronger.
“There are certain positions that, if we had suffered injuries this year, we would have been in a difficult situation.
“With the competitions we will be entering next year and the extra games that we have got, it’s not going to be possible to play the same team in every game. That will be impossible.”
Howe also stressed that he is quite happy for Newcastle to continue to upset people, whether that is to do with the identity of their owners or the way his team plays the game.
“I think we've been used to that from day one, to be honest. I think there's been that feeling that popularity-wise, I don't think we're high up on people's lists for various reasons," he added.
“You accept that, I've got no issue with that and almost we've tried to use that for our benefit and for our gain, really.
“I've said we're not here to be popular, we don't care, really, about outside opinions. We very much care about inside opinion, we care about what the people of Newcastle think of us and what our supporters think.
“We've tried to act in the right way and make them proud, that's been our biggest focus."