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Newcastle United hierarchy hold 'productive' talks with leading target

Newcastle United's St James' Park gates <i>(Image: PA)</i>
Newcastle United's St James' Park gates (Image: PA)

NEWCASTLE UNITED have held ‘productive’ talks with Johannes Spors as they look to resolve their sporting director situation ahead of the reopening of the transfer window next month.

The Magpies’ current sporting director, Dan Ashworth, remains on gardening leave after expressing an interest in moving to Manchester United.

Dougie Freedman had been lined up as Ashworth’s successor at St James’ Park, but despite having held detailed discussions with the Newcastle hierarchy, the Scot opted to remain in his current role as sporting director at Crystal Palace.

Freedman’s decision, which was conveyed to the hierarchy on Tyneside at the end of last week, forced a rethink and resulted in a renewed interest in Spors, whose candidature had been considered prior to the approach to Freedman.

A 41-year-old German, Spors is the global sporting director of 777 Group, the multi-club ownership group that is hoping to buy Everton.

The 777 Group owns clubs across the world, including Genoa, Hertha Berlin, Standard Liege and Vasco da Game, and Spors is regarded as the pivotal figure in their football operations department.

A former analyst who worked under ex-Manchester United boss Ralk Rangnick, Spors had a lengthy spell at Hoffenheim and was heavily involved in recruitment at the Bundesliga club when they signed Joelinton from Brazil.

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He oversaw recruitment at RB Leipzig prior to taking on his first technical director role, which came at Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem in 2020. During Spors’ 18 months at Vitesse, who had a close relationship with Chelsea, the Eredivisie side reached the Dutch Cup final and qualified for Europe via their league position.

Senior Newcastle officials have held talks with Spors since Freedman’s decision to remain at Selhurst Park was made public, with sources claiming the discussions were regarded as ‘positive’.

The Magpies hierarchy will now consider their options, but are keen to have a new sporting director in place by the time the transfer window officially reopens next month.

Their current head of scouting, Steve Nickson, will play a prominent role in this summer’s transfer dealings whatever happens, but co-owner Amanda Staveley and chief executive Darren Eales would both like to have a sporting director involved in recruitment decisions this summer.

Ashworth’s departure to Manchester United is likely to be rubber-stamped once Newcastle have his successor in place, although the two clubs are yet to agree a compensation fee for the former FA chief. Ashworth’s period of gardening leave is currently not due to expire until the second half of 2025.