The £35m gamble that the Magpies could not refuse

01 February 2011 09:43
Andy Carroll is the eighth most expensive player in the history of world football. Eighth. Of all time, ever.

The £35m that Liverpool paid for him yesterday is more than Barcelona shelled out to sign World Cup winner David Villa last summer. More than Manchester City paid for Robinho in 2008, a transfer that was supposed to have raised the financial benchmark to unmatchable levels. More even than Manchester United invested in Wayne Rooney, supposedly the best English striker in the game.

It is important to bear that in mind when we move on to the rest of the argument that will surely shape Newcastle United's destiny for the next few years.

Should Mike Ashley have caved in yesterday afternoon and accepted Liverpool's final offer for his club's prize asset On a purely financial level, it is hard to see how he could have turned down such a staggeringly large amount of money.

The logic behind the transfer is obvious, yet it still feels so damaging to the rebuilding project that Ashley has overseen since relegation 18 months ago. If a Carroll-less Newcastle return to the Championship in May, what use will £35m be then

Such a scenario is hardly an impossibility despite the 30 Premier League points that Newcastle have garnered so far. Realistically, they probably need three more wins and a couple of draws to guarantee their survival. Can a strike force of Shola Ameobi, Peter Lovenkrands, Leon Best and Nile Ranger deliver those results

When James Milner left St James' Park for £12m in August 2008, plenty of people felt Aston Villa had made an offer that was impossible to refute. One week later, Kevin Keegan resigned, sparking a chaotic sequence of events that eventually culminated in Newcastle's relegation the following May. Once one domino falls, it is impossible to know where the reactive sequence of events will stop.

Even if Newcastle survive this season, yesterday's developments can only be interpreted as a necessary evil if Alan Pardew is given a hefty chunk of the £35m to reinvest in new players.

The speed of Carroll's sale means Ashley cannot be excoriated for failing to sign a replacement. Sunderland have been keen to spend their Darren Bent money all month, yet have decided there is no value in the January market for strikers.

The summer will be different, and Ashley's decision to accept a clubrecord fee will be interpreted rather more harshly if most of the money disappears into his pocket in the next five months.

With £35m to spend, Pardew could sign four or five players good enough to turn Newcastle into stable mid-table incumbents at worst, genuine European contenders at best.

Alternatively, he could be forced to live off scraps with his leading goalscorer strutting his stuff at Anfield.

The dynamics of Pardew's relationship with Ashley have intrigued since the day of his appointment, but yesterday's events underline once and for all where the power lies.

December 9, Pardew's first day in office: Andy Carroll's future was one of the items at the top of my agenda.

When I sat down with Derek (Llambias) last night, Andy Carroll came up and he stays.

January 6: On Andy, we will give the answer to any club that contacts us this month that Andy is not for sale. I can't say strong enough that Andy will not leave this window.

January 16: They (Tottenham) can put together whatever they like.

He is not for sale. I am going to say it one last time, he is not for sale. It would almost be cruel to dredge the archives for any more.

Despite being hand-picked to fill his present position, Pardew is every bit as impotent as Keegan, Joe Kinnear and Chris Hughton were before him. He might have Llambias' ear, but if he has Ashley's, the Newcastle owner is not listening.

Even if he was, of course, he could claim that £35m was an offer he could not have anticipated when he offered Pardew his post. The argument is hard to refute, as no one could really have foreseen a bid of such size as late as yesterday morning.

It came, though, and like a roulette player worried that his luck was about to turn, Ashley decided to cash in.

The fear, as the rest of the season stretches ahead, is that sanctioning Carroll's departure might have been one gamble too far.

World all-time highest transfer fees 1. Cristiano Ronaldo £80m Manchester United Real Madrid 2009

2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic £56.5m Internazionale Barcelona 2009

3. Kaká £56m Milan Real Madrid 2009

4. Fernando Torres £50m Liverpool Chelsea 2011

5. Zinedine Zidane £45m Juventus Real Madrid 2001

6. Luís Figo £37m Barcelona Real Madrid 2000

7. Hernán Crespo £35.5m Parma Lazio 2000

8. Andy Carroll £35m Newcastle Liverpool 2011

9. David Villa £34m Valencia Barcelona 2010

10. Gianluigi Buffon £32.6m Parma Juventus 2001

11. Robinho £32.5m Real Madrid Manchester City 2008

12. Gaizka Mendieta £32.5m Valencia Lazio 2001

13. Christian Vieri £32m Lazio Internazionale 1999

14. Andriy Shevchenko £30.8m Milan Chelsea 2006

15. Pavel Nedved £30.7m Lazio Juventus 2001

Source: Northern_Echo