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Why did Mike Ashley suddenly decide to spend £40m on a player and why did it have to be Joelinton?

3 days ago
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Newcastle United have an ‘interesting’ history with agents.

Back in summer 2011, Newcastle signed Demba Ba as a free agent and it was later revealed by HMRC (***See below) that Newcastle had paid a £1.9m fee to Simon Stainrod, who acted on behalf of Newcastle United when signing the player.

Not much was made of it at the time, and in 2019, paying fees to agents is now the norm.

As the saying goes, it is part and parcel of the modern game.

Now we have the ever so strange case of Joelinton.

Newcastle’s record signing who we bought for a staggering £40million in the summer.

I will leave it up to you to decide if the ‘staggering’ adjective was to describe the fact that Newcastle spent £40million on a player, or the fact that it was Joelinton who that money was spent on. The truth being that it is an adequate description of both instances.

Joelinton will be the first to admit that he has struggled so far in black and white. However, overall, I think he has done alright. Sure, he is by no means a £40million player and the term ‘couldn’t hit a cow’s backside with a banjo’ is one that suits him down to the ground. Despite this, I really don’t think he has done as bad as most fans have made out so far but…

The question on everybody’s lips though… just why or how did Newcastle end up paying £40million quid for this fella? It makes no sense.

At the time of him signing, it is not as if he had been banging in the goals elsewhere in Europe’s big leagues is it? Or little leagues for that matter. This is an attacker who never hit double figures in a league season, including during his time in Brazil, with a lofty height of five goals in one season where he played 30 games. Signed by Hoffenheim, it probably says a lot of what they thought of him that he was shipped out on loan to the Austrian league where he scored 21 goals in 79 games. Not a bad record, but when you consider the level of the Austrian league (not a world of difference from the SPL) he was hardly pulling up trees.

At Hoffenheim last season, Joelinton did well with a decent return of 11 goals in 33 games (all competitions, seven in the Bundesliga). Not bad! However, in no way does it justify spending that sort of money on a player. For example, for the 2018/19 season, Joelinton doesn’t even rank in transfermarket.com top 250 goalscorer in European football.

So, why did Mike Ashley suddenly decide to spend allegedly £40m on one player and it had to be Joelinton?

Once again we see an interesting background story to it involving the club and the use of agents.

Allan Saint-Maximin and Joelinton were both represented by the ROGON Agency.

A massive coincidence that the one summer in which Newcastle finally spend (relatively) big money on two players and they just so happen to have the same agents?

The club’ relationship with agents has always been a topic of interest, or even concern, ever since when back in the days of Kevin Keegan’s second coming and then eventual departure when he sued for constructive dismissal, the club admitted in court that the loan signing of Nacho Gonzalez was done as a favour to two South American agents on the proviso that Newcastle would be looked on favourably in future transfer dealings. In the end, this was a loan deal that cost the club £1m in wages for a player that “was not expected to play in the first team”.

Gonzalez famously had never been watched by anyone at the club, and it begs the question too, just how many times did Steve Nickson watch Joelinton before Newcastle agreed a £40m valuation with Hoffenheim by February 2020 at the very latest?

The Gonzalez deal, amongst others, is the sort of deal which has led to agents gaining a bad name in football and plays into the rhetoric of agents ‘ruining the beautiful game’. Yet at Newcastle United, this was (is?) seen as a way to do business.

In the HMRC investigation (which began in 2017 and still hasn’t concluded), it wasn’t only the Demba Ba move from West Ham that was cited by HMRC, they also mentioned those involving Moussa Sissoko, Papiss Cisse, Davide Santon and Sylvain Marveaux as being of concern.

Even Newcastle’s last big money centre forward, led to a report by The S** Newspaper (apologies for mentioning them) saying that Belgian police were leading an investigation into Aleksandar Mitrovic’ move to Newcastle with suspected money laundering by the agents involved.

Is this all so common place in football, or do Newcastle United find themselves really unlucky in working with agents where there are issues, far more than your average club?

I have seen media reports claiming all kinds of positivity for NUFC from their close relationship with the ROGON Agency this summer gone, but as it stands, why on earth did Mike Ashley, a notorious penny pincher, decide that this particular player was worth shelling out £40million for and losing his greatest asset in Rafa Benitez…?

In terms of the Brazilian’s footballing ability that we have seen so far, it just doesn’t add up.

So why did Newcastle suddenly spend £40million on Joelinton and why exactly is this relationship with the ROGON Agency so great, when ending up paying such over the top money on a striker who had achieved so little previously?

(*** The Guardian – 5 October 2017:

Newcastle United are under investigation over alleged “extensive” tax evasion on player transfers, court papers have shown.

Details of the allegations have emerged as the club failed in a legal challenge against search warrants issued to HM Revenue and Customs during Operation Loom, which saw dawn raids by HMRC on premises including St James’ Park as part of a £5m tax investigation involving Premier League and French clubs. The papers show HMRC investigators suspect Newcastle, owned by the billionaire Sports Direct tycoon Mike Ashley, of involvement in an elaborate scheme to evade income tax, VAT and national insurance.

The allegations relate to the club’s part in the transfers of players including Demba Ba, Moussa Sissoko, Papiss Cissé, Sylvain Marveaux and Davide Santon. HMRC said Newcastle had “systematically abused the tax system” with the use of “sham” contracts that disguised the true recipients of agents’ fees.

HMRC cited Ba’s free transfer from West Ham United whose London Stadium was also raided during Operation Loom, as an example of how the alleged tax scam worked. Court papers referred to a £1.9m fee paid by Newcastle to Simon Stainrod, an agent acting on behalf of the club during negotiations to sign the Senegalese player in 2011.

The vast majority of that money was then allegedly “secretly transferred” via a law firm to companies linked to Ba and unlicensed agents. The companies named are Sarl Ba Corporation, France-based Quatorze Management, Silkee Management in Enfield, north London, and Panama-based Zumbada Ventures Corporation.

The alleged arrangement was in breach of FA agents’ regulations and happened in the “full knowledge” of Newcastle, according to HMRC officer Lee Griffiths. He said this meant both the club and Ba evaded income tax and national insurance because the fees were not treated as “taxable benefits enjoyed by the player”. HRMC said it missed out on nearly £1.2m as a result of the labyrinthine structure.)

You can follow the author on Twitter @_jonathandc

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