Money alone may not save Newcastle: Neil Humphreys
Superstars will not flock to a risky relegation battle
The comparisons to Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain were always misplaced, failing to see beyond the money, as usual.
Newcastle United must overcome obstacles that are unique to the Magpies. The pound notes may not be enough to save them.
On a strange night, Newcastle's new non-executive chairman, Yasir al-Rumayyan of Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), came to bask in the adulation of thousands of giddy Geordies.
The PIF's £305 million (S$565.6m) purchase has already bought a club, a city and a complicit cabal of gushing pundits and media commentators. But the 3-2 defeat by Tottenham Hotspur yesterday morning (Singapore time) showed that they have not bought an elite English Premier League team.
They have inherited a mess.
There are some things that petrodollars cannot buy, like geography.
Take David Ginola. He was back at St James' Park for the Spurs game, another famous old boy eager to rub shoulders with the tailored suits of new money.
But Ginola, by his own admission, left Newcastle for Tottenham in 1997 because London will always be London for the standard international superstar. And Newcastle isn't.
Nor is it Paris, Barcelona or Madrid. Geography matters.
Even Sir Alex Ferguson couldn't tempt Paul Gascoigne to pick Manchester over London, a geographical thorn that could only be removed from Fergie's side with many pieces of silver. So Manchester United started winning them all.
Trophies can offset the clumping footprints of a trudge up north. City experienced a similar chastening experience when the petrodollars were initially poured into their sportswashing revolution, but an obvious advantage attracted Robinho in 2008.
Previous owner Thaksin Shinawatra had already spent a year improving the squad and making the club an attractive proposition. City's first title arrived four years later.
Newcastle could be relegated in seven months.
They remain winless and languish in 19th place. While the Magpies raced ahead through Callum Wilson's opener against Tottenham, the early euphoria soon gave way to grim reality.
Wilson can be a live wire when fit. Allan Saint-Maximin poses a creative threat from wide positions. Javier Manquillo provides solid support on the right and Joelinton never stops running. But adrenaline cannot be expected to carry the rest.
A deep, disorganised defence failed to adjust and was soon bypassed once Spurs adjusted and floated balls towards Harry Kane. Newcastle, in essence, are relatively easy to beat.
Chronic underfunding during the Mike Ashley era leaves them flirting with relegation after just eight games. Long-suffering fans deserve better, but it's hard to see a quick fix here.
Jokes about Kylian Mbappe partnering Wilson still do the rounds, but it's not clear who'll have the last laugh. Who'll fancy a move to St James' Park in the bleak mid-winter of the January transfer window?
Manager Steve Bruce - and his eventual successor - can offer a world-class pay cheque, but not world-class prospects. The kind of life-changing player that the Saudi owners presumably envisage to elevate their public relations exercise already earns life-changing money.
At such rarefied levels of elite sport, career-defining legacies count more.
There are not enough petrodollars to tempt Mbappe to the far north of England when winter is coming. He's not Jon Snow. He's not answering a spiritual call to free the persecuted folk of Newcastle from the monstrous threat of relegation.
ONE FOR OTHERS TO FOLLOW
Of course, it only needs one for others to follow. City secured Robinho. PSG captured Neymar and, returning to the quaint days when clubs were not owned by countries, Manchester United pinched Eric Cantona and Blackburn Rovers nabbed Alan Shearer.
A talismanic addition, such as Philippe Coutinho for example, is as much a statement of intent as it is a high-profile loan signing.
But those other clubs didn't have a van circling their stadiums on match days, with a banner bearing the words "Jamal Khashoggi: Murdered 2.10.18". The Saudi factor cannot be airbrushed out of the picture by dozens of Geordies in homemade headdresses.
Potential loan signings may not relish the prospect of antagonistic questions about state-sponsored cruelty on their Instagram accounts. That's not the kind of viral that any footballer fancies.
So, apart from the human rights concerns, the negative PR, a broken, winless squad, a departing manager, a relegation battle and a less than desirable location for sun-kissed superstars, what could Newcastle possibly offer in the transfer window?
There's only one thing left. And football has to mean more than that.