The billionaire blueprint Newcastle want to follow: From Roman Abramovich bankrolling Chelsea to glory and Sheik Mansour putting Manchester City on the map – these mega-rich owners shattered the status quo and changed the Premier League forever…
- Newcastle are edging closer to a £300m takeover by Saudi-led consortium
- Backed by Saudi investment funds, Newcastle could be transformed overnight
- Blackburn were one of the first to upset the established order after a takeover
- Roman Abramovich then backrolled Chelsea’s titles in England and in Europe
- Manchester City were league’s last big success, after Sheik Mansour took helm
Newcastle are on the verge of completing a £300million takeover led by a consortium backed by money from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.
Should the deal go through, current owner Mike Ashley would be handing the keys over to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is estimated to have a personal wealth of £7billion.
With the backing of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, worth a colossal £260bn, the Magpies could be a club transformed and challenging for titles in future.
Newcastle are on the verge of being taken over by the Saudi state in a £300million deal
The takeover is backed by Saudi’s Public Investment Fund, led by Prince Mohamed bin Salman
Amanda Staveley is helping to broker the Saudi takeover of Newcastle after years of trying
Newcastle have always been regarded as one of England’s ‘sleeping giants’, given their dedicated fanbase, large stadium and a fondly remembered recent history that saw them pipped to the Premier League title in the late 90s.
When it comes to club’s last major piece of silverware, you have to go all the way back to 1955 when they won the FA Cup, but the league has been out of reach since just after the end of the First World War.
However, a Saudi regime with bottomless pockets on Tyneside could signify a changing of the guard when it comes to who will be challenging for Premier League and Champions League titles in years to come.
But, while billionaires and multi-millionaires remain in control at the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham, West Ham, Aston Villa and Everton, such a scenario does not necessarily mean glory will follow, as those clubs prove.
So, what standout examples are there of rich benefactors who have gone on to fund a club’s charge into becoming a Premier League powerhouse?
JACK WALKER – BLACKBURN ROVERS
Before the Premier League’s inception in 1992, local entrepreneur and lifelong supporter Jack Walker reached into his pockets to purchase Blackburn Rovers in 1991.
The club that had been yo-yoing up and down the divisions throughout the 70s before steadying the ship in the Second Division in the 80s.
Walker had amassed a personal fortune of around £600m in the steelworks industry and went on to assume full control of the Ewood Park outfit in the hope of turning Rovers into one of the most successful and prosperous clubs in England’s top flight.
With money behind him, Walker made funds readily available for players and coaching staff, while also threatening to make Manchester United look ‘cheap’.
Generous benefactor Jack Walker (centre) stands with manager Kenny Dalglish (left) and assistant boss Ray Harford after Blackburn Rovers won the Premier League title in 1995
Ahead of the Premier League’s inaugural season, Walker appointed Kenny Dalglish as manager, who ended their 26-year stay outside the top flight by winning promotion as the 1991-92 second division play-off winners.
Walker put his money where his mouth was and spent £25million on new players during his first three years in charge. This included breaking the British transfer record twice after he brought in 22-year-old Alan Shearer for £3.5m from Southampton in 1992 before Chris Sutton joined from Norwich City for £5m just two years later.
With money behind them and the squad showing their worth, Blackburn became title contenders within a season of their promotion.
After finishing fourth in 1992-93 campaign and then as runners-up the following season, the writing was on the wall for the rest of the Premier League.
The lethal attacking duo of Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton inspired their title-winning side
The lethal attacking duo of Shearer and Sutton formed the bedrock of their title-winning side, supplied by flying wingers Stuart Ripley and Jason Wilcox. Tim Sherwood led by example as the club’s captain in the heart of its midfield. Colin Hendry was a titan at the back. Tim Flowers was at £2.4m the most expensive goalkeeper in Britain but also one of the very best.
In 1994-95, Blackburn went on to win the Premier League title by pipping rivals United to the trophy, cementing their status as a force in the early to mid-90s.
While the success dried up and it started to go downhill in the next five years, Blackburn are one of only six clubs to lifted the Premier League trophy, with so much of their success attributed to the ownership of the late Jack Walker.
ROMAN ABRAMOVICH – CHELSEA
When Roman Abramovich purchased Chelsea from Ken Bates for £140m in June 2003, the meeting at the Dorchester Hotel was said to have only taken 20 minutes.
Many didn’t realise just how influential the billionaire Russian oligarch would be in changing the landscape of English football.
At that time, only Fulham were under foreign ownership in England’s top flight but Abramovich’s arrival created a sense of excitement that anything was possible when money was injected into the right club.
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich (left) bought Chelsea from Ken Bates in 2003
His early signings included Joe Cole (left) and Juan Sebastien Veron (right) – but manager Claudio Ranieri (centre) was soon replaced by Jose Mourinho and great success followed
Abramovich showed early on that he meant business, splashing out in his first season alone on Glen Johnson, Geremi, Wayne Bridge, Damien Duff, Joe Cole, Juan Sebastian Veron, Adrian Mutu, Alexey Smertin, Hernan Crespo, Neil Sullivan, Claude Makelele and Scott Parker, a hitherto unimaginable spending spree.
Abramovich’s impact was felt straight away as Chelsea went from a cosmopolitan Cup-winning team unable to sustain a title challenge to serial winners of the top trophies within two seasons, establishing the Blues one of England’s elite clubs for years to come.
The arrival of Jose Mourinho made them unmissable while the likes of Didier Drogba, John Terry and Frank Lampard made them untouchable.
After winning their first Premier League title in the 2004-05 campaign, the west London outfit would go on to win it four more times, while adding plenty more silverware to the cabinet.
They have won the Champions League, the Europa League twice, the FA Cup four times and the League Cup three times in the 17 years of Abramovich’s reign.
Abramovich’s millions lifted Chelsea to unprecedented heights in the years that followed
It’s been achieved through lavish spending on world-class players and the alarmingly regular chopping and changing of managers.
The Russian chooses to keep a low profile these days, though he did attend every game at Stamford Bridge in the early years. Visa issues have since complicated his involvement, however.
Given what Chelsea have accomplished since his arrival, every football fan lives in hope an Abramovich-style figure will come and take over their club.
SHEIKH MANSOUR – MANCHESTER CITY
From struggling to keep their place in the top flight of English football to being described as the ‘noisy neighbours’ by Sir Alex Ferguson – Manchester City had not touched silverware in a long time before Sheik Mansour came along.
Following an underwhelming takeover by Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in the summer of 2007, City were then bought by the Abu Dhabi United Group, who like Abramovich promised to bring back the club’s glory days.
Sheik Mansour has a personal wealth approaching £20bn and his family is said to be worth $1trillion, which has allowed City to build and become one of the best teams over the past decade.
Manchester City have gone on to become one of the most successful clubs in England
The signing of Carlos Tevez – and the famous billboard showing it off – rattled rivals Manchester United, whose boss Sir Alerx Ferguson branded them ‘noisy neighbours’
Following their takeover, a direct investment into the club totalling £1.3bn changed City from a plucky but generally hopeless side to challengers for the highest honours available.
In terms of impact, it was immediate. On September 1, 2008, City went out and spent £32.5m on Real Madrid’s Robinho, creating shockwaves across the league. City were here and they were here to stay.
Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Fernandinho were among those who followed, although arguably their biggest statement arrived in the form of Carlos Tevez from United in 2009, a move that rattled even Fergie.
Four Premier League titles, two FA Cups and five League Cups since have made up for years of chronic underachievement, though the Champions League remains the final frontier.
City manager Pep Guardiola in conversation with owner Sheikh Mansour in Abu Dhabi in 2018
City have also been transformed off the field with a state-of-the-art training complex and now have sister clubs all around the world as part of the giant City Football Group.
But this spending has now caught up with City and their Abu Dhabi backers. A two-year ban from European competition – an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport pending – for breaches of Financial Fair Play regulations, could hamper their progress.
While lessons have been learned, it still paints an optimistic picture for Newcastle fans across the world.
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