In the reign of Mike Ashley, buying Premier League players had increasingly become history.
With Graham Carr as his man in charge of identifying potential signings, Ashley had chosen to look abroad instead.
The theory being that the domestic market offered little value, with rising transfer fees and wages.
Whereas, the perception (of Ashley and Carr) was that there were still bargains to be had on the continent, young players at lower asking prices who could reasonably be expected to grow in value and potentially be sold at a profit in the future.
At one point the focus was almost exclusively on France and the five players signed in January 2013 a vivid illustration of that.
As time moved on, France was still favoured and the Premier League ignored, but the leagues in Holland and Belgium also became an attraction for the buy low(er) and see value increase theory.
However, the Ashley/Carr cunning plan had one major flaw in it – the players, in the vast majority of cases, weren’t very good.
As well as being the main factor in relegating Newcastle for a second time in seven years, the overseas signings had in most cases become liabilities. Far from increasing in value, their worth had generally gone in the other direction, plus the wages they were/are on, has made it very difficult to get them off Newcastle’s books.
A rising market, luck, and a few decent signings amongst the many players signed, has distorted the true picture. Cabaye was arguably the best signing from the continent, whilst Spurs made a catastrophic decision when it came to Sissoko, whilst Wijnaldum did ok with a cluster of goals at home and the rising market helped deliver a £10m profit on him.
If you really analyse Newcastle’s transfers of recent years, you will find a surprising picture emerging.
It is the Premier League that has really delivered for Newcastle United in the transfer market. When big money has been spent, it has been rewarded with both performances and rise in player value.
Whilst Henri Saivet and Seydou Doumbia were shocking signings in January 2016 from the continent, both Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend proved to be great value.
A contract clause meant that Newcastle only got their money (£12m) back on Townsend when he moved to Palace but he put in some great displays in his short time at St James Park, his contribution almost helping United avoid relegation.
Whilst Jonjo Shelvey had mixed fortunes after arriving at a chaotic Newcastle in that relegation season, he has bounced back and became the man who made Newcastle tick last year. The £12m paid to Swansea is now looking a bargain and if for some mad reason Newcastle chose to now sell, they would make a major profit.
Likewise, Dwight Gayle dropped down from the Premier League a year ago and has been a stellar signing. Despite only 26 Championship starts, the striker scored 23 league goals and the same as Shelvey, United would be looking at £20m as a starting point if they wanted to sell him.
The ultra consistent Matt Ritchie is yet another Premier League signing who has shown star quality, combining goals, hard work, consistency and creativity, he was arguably player of the year last season and is another who has seen his value increase.
Battling for player of the year last season was also Ciaran Clark, his contract clause allowing a bargain £5m move from Villa and the Premier League man has seen himself bounce back once again to the top tier with his new club. Easily Newcastle’s best defender last season, the Irish international must be worth at least twice what was paid.
Then you have Isaac Hayden who at around £5m from Premier League Arsenal has proved a superb buy, a young player with his career ahead of him and whose value has definitely increased in these past 12 months.
DeAndre Yedlin is another who is a young player with massive potential, gradually adding a bit of composure to his tremendous pace the US international shows every sign of being able to cope with promotion.
Contrast these signings from the Premier League with those captured from the regular continental route.
Apart from Wijnaldum, the signings from abroad in recent seasons have been pretty disastrous. At £14m and £10m, Mitrovic and Mbemba struggled to even get a game under Rafa in the Championship, United would be lucky to get half their money back on either.
Florian Thauvin went back to France in a cut price deal after hardly playing a game, whilst it was the same with Remy Cabella before him. Siem de Jong has been another disaster and the list goes on.
Matz Sels and Achraf Lazaar were two more case whereby they weren’t of the quality needed in the Premier League and whilst Jesus Gamez didn’t carry a fee Rafa Benitez didn’t rate him worthy of much involvement.
This isn’t a case of saying British good, foreign bad, but certainly bringing in players from Premier League clubs has proved a winning formula, both in terms of achievement on the pitch and the value that they retain and increase. In fact Mohamed Diame is probably the only one who sticks out as a major disappointment and he is a bit of a mystery, considering he had consistently delivered in the past.
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