Marseille are a great example of a massive club that had fallen on hard times and was eventually bought out relatively recently.
Not difficult to see similarities between Newcastle United and the French club, both with massive support but underperforming on and off the pitch.
Obviously the extra cash involved in the Premier League is always going to make a club such as Newcastle United more lucrative than your average Ligue 1 club, with the league/TV money generated in France a relative pittance for most clubs compared to the English top tier.
After a lengthy period of speculation, rumours, negotiations, claim and counter-claim, Frank McCourt announced in August 2016 that a deal had been agreed to buy Marseille, however, it was some two months later when the takeover was completed in October.
The previous season (2015/16) had seen Marseille skirt with relegation danger before eventually finishing 13th.
With the current owners unwilling/unable to invest much in team strengthening and with the uncertainty brought on by takeover talk/expectation, and negotiations dragging on, it was feared relegation would be a very real possibility – despite the impending takeover.
Ambitious players, lack of ambition and minimal investment had led to Imbula, Thauvin and Payet leaving in 2015/16, with the remaining star names of Batshuayi, Mendy, Lemina, and N’Koudou then following them that summer (2016). Some £120m banked across the three transfer windows and very little spent.
Whether the prospective new owner (Frank McCourt) was involved or not, the current owners in summer 2016 tried to ensure disaster (relegation trouble) didn’t strike to jeopardise the sale of Marseille.
With no significant cash to spend, they made a number of short-term agreements to help try and get the team through this difficult period.
The summer 2016 window seeing Bafetimbi Gomis arrive on loan from Swansea, Clinton M’Jie from Tottenham on loan, plus Florian Thauvin on loan with possibility of it being made permanent.
Marseille committing to serious wages (for a French club) for the three Premier League players but with the expectation that Frank McCourt would shortly complete the club takeover and take over those wages as well.
The transfers proved inspired, Marseille recovered from 13th the previous season to finish 5th, the three loan players scoring a massive 39 of the 57 league goals scored in that 2016/17 season.
With the new owners having a commitment to invest after taking over, they kept to their word and since they took over it has been a case of investing in the team rather than selling the best assets.
January 2017 saw some £35m spent on Sanson and Dmitri Payet, then another £55m or so net spending in summer 2017, which included paying Newcastle for Florian Thauvin’s permanent deal.
As we speak, Marseille and currently second in Ligue 1 behind PSG and making rapid strides towards taking them back to where the fans believe they should be.
These past two transfer windows under the new owners have seen Marseille spend around as much as the previous nine or ten transfer windows.
Coming back to Newcastle United and the potential takeover. Tuesday night’s rescued point at West Brom was very welcome but the fact remains that Newcastle are surely set to be one of maybe eight or so clubs trying to avoid relegation.
If a takeover is going to take some time, then it is vital that everything is done in the meantime to try and make sure there is no danger of going down.
With only an £11.5m net spend in the summer, Mike Ashley sent a very strong message suggesting he had no intention of allowing the necessary transfer spend to make sure of safety.
Already strong rumours indicate that if he is still in charge it will be a similar story in January.
Maybe Newcastle need to invest heavily in better quality players via loan deals and or loan with a view to buy, in January, just as Marseille did 18 months ago.
There is no guarantee of staying up just because you bring in better quality players but if you don’t bring them in, then it pretty much guarantees you are gambling with possible relegation.
Let’s hope everybody is pulling together, including Mike Ashley and any potential buyer, to ensure we don’t have any relegation issues affecting this (hopefully) impending takeover of Newcastle United.