To outsiders, Newcastle United's January spending spree is proof that Mike Ashley is a good owner who puts his hand in his pocket when needed. Only Manchester City beat the Magpies' £47 million net spend last summer, with another £29 million spent in January. Last month's total was the highest in Europe and outspent the whole Bundesliga.
But it doesn't tell the whole story. Ashley's recent splurge follows years of penny-pinching and net profits for the world's 17th richest club. Between 2009 and 2014, Newcastle had the Premier League's lowest net spend - bringing in a staggering £45 million more than what was spent on players. This period featured high-profile sales such as Andy Carroll for £35 million and Yohan Cabaye for £19 million. Meanwhile, Newcastle only bought one player during the summers of 2012 and 2013 - Vurnon Anita. The loan of Loic Remy was their sole business in the latter.
It was only when Alan Pardew's 2012-13 side were fighting relegation did Ashley panic and raid France that winter. Mathieu Debuchy, Moussa Sissoko, Yoan Gouffran, Massadio Haidara and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa arrived for just £16 million and did enough to ensure the Magpies' safety.
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Those deals, alongside Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa, were proof of Newcastle's successful transfer policy that was almost exclusively focused on French (and later Dutch) talents. In fact, the recent signing of Jonjo Shelvey was the first money spent on a Premier League player in almost five years.
Chief scout Graham Carr controlled this strategy and it's significant that Steve McClaren has somehow prompted this recent shift. Suddenly, Newcastle have signed English players with Premier League experience, loaned the over-26 Seydou Doumbia and, arguably, overspent on certain players. There was even a serious attempt to break their transfer record on Saido Berahino. This is unheard of.
Since 2011 every other Premier League club has made a record signing at least once, except Aston Villa. Newcastle's biggest deal remains 2005's £17 million purchase of Michael Owen - Stoke just spent more than that on a defensive midfielder. But the pursuit of Berahino showed that maybe a leopard can change its spots.
So yes, Newcastle have spent a lot of money on the long-awaited squad gutting but it's well-earnt and well overdue. Years of frugal net profit, Premier League TV money and sold-out stadiums means that Ashley can easily afford to spend so much of the club's money.
Next season's incredible £5.14 billion TV deal, where you get £100 million just for taking part, makes survival absolutely vital. It tightens the Premier League's grip on football and you can't afford to miss out. Newcastle currently lie 17th in the league. With so much at stake, and Newcastle in such a precarious position, January's spend was a calculated and essential risk.
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