While it’s great to have new additions Ki Sung-yueng and Yoshinori Muto on board and ready to challenge for a place in the first team, it’s tempting to wonder whether they have been signed solely based on their footballing abilities.
With all the cynical stunts that Mike Ashley has pulled down through the years, it’s actually surprising that Newcastle’s signings during his tenure haven’t been intrinsically linked to Sports Direct’s expansion plans – until now?
While Ki has proved himself a capable performer during a lengthy stay in Britain and Muto featured for Japan in their recent World Cup campaign, the arrival of two new Asian recruits – each of them the first player from that nation to represent Newcastle United – can’t help but raise eyebrows amongst the more mistrustful Magpies fans.
March 2018 saw Sports Direct announce plans to set up a regional distribution centre in Kuala Lumpur in order to facilitate further expansion into the Asian market – a market that also happens to have a seemingly insatiable appetite for Premier League football.
Asia’s football fanatics are always keen to track the fortunes of the Asian players in the league and, by extension, lend their support to the teams they represent – which would surely suit Mike Ashley down to the ground….