Even before Newcastle United’s Saudi Arabia-backed takeover was completed last October, speculation swirled around the big names fans could envisage in the North East. Some of the best players in the sport were mentioned as English football faced up to the prospect of a new superpower, but the reality so far has been more modest.
However, this doesn’t mean the Magpies aren’t making good signings. In fact, their capture of Sven Botman from Lille this week could be one of the signings of the summer in the Premier League. Eddie Howe needed a dominant centre back to build his defence around and the Dutchman looks to fit the bill.
Botman can be to Newcastle United what Vincent Kompany was to Manchester City. Of course, it might be unrealistic to expect Botman to match the achievements of one of the best defenders of the Premier League era, but it’s possible that the 22-year-old could provide his new team with a spine in much the same way Kompany did for his side.
Before Sergio Aguero, Kevin de Bruyne David Silva, Yaya Toure and all the others pitched up at the Etihad Stadium following Sheikh Mansour’s takeover of City in 2008, Kompany was there. The Belgian actually joined the club a matter of weeks before the takeover was completed, but he was very much a part of the vision for Manchester City’s future.
For 11 years, Kompany was the backbone of City’s team. He was there when the club won their first piece of silverware of the Abu Dhabi era and he was there when Manchester City won their first Premier League title. Roberto Mancini, Manuel Pellegrini and Pep Guardiola all built their teams around the Belgian centre back who cost just £6m.
Howe made his defence a priority in his first January transfer window as Newcastle United manager. Dan Burn, Matt Targett and Kieran Trippier all arrived at St James’ Park to help the Magpies climb the Premier League table, and Newcastle’s defensive record certainly improved as they finished in 11th place. It gave them a basis for Howe to build upon and his team will be even stronger at the back next season after signing Botman and Nick Pope.
Newcastle United targeted Botman in January, but couldn’t persuade the Dutchman to sign at a time when relegation from the Premier League was a genuine possibility. Now, though, with the St James’ Park outfit safe from the drop, Botman surely sees Newcastle as a good place for him to grow his career.
After two full seasons in Ligue 1, one of which saw Lille win the French title, Botman is ready to take the next step in his career. He has proven himself at Champions League level and has the technical and physical attributes to succeed in the Premier League. At Newcastle, Botman will be allowed to grow with the team around him.
AC Milan wanted Botman and looked to have secured the signing of the Dutchman before Newcastle United made one last pitch. That the Magpies were able to snatch a player from under the nose of the Italian champions, who will be in the Champions League next season, says a lot about how prospective signings now view the project at St James’ Park.
Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules mean Newcastle United might not have the freedom to spend as much money as they otherwise would have liked this summer, but this could result in the Magpies making some shrewd signings. Botman could be one of those additions just as Kompany was for Manchester City back in 2008.