Thanks to billions from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, Newcastle United qualified for the Champions League for the first time in 21 years this season. To be able to survive it, new investments must be made.
Suddenly players like Sadio Mané are associated with the club. Names that Newcastle supporters would not have dared to dream of just a few years ago. A famous attacker whose bounty seems to be over? This shouldn’t bring back fond memories for longtime fans.
In the summer of 2004, the world was still going well in Newcastle. They had reached the UEFA Cup semi-finals and were in the top five for the third consecutive time in the Premier League. When manager Sir Bobby Robson then announced that he had signed one of the « most important newcomers for many years », nothing seemed to stand in the way of a successful future.
In Patrick Kluivert, Newcastle have secured the services of one of the most prolific Dutchmen in history. In 1995, he fired his hometown club Ajax Amsterdam to the Champions League title, scoring 122 goals in six seasons with FC Barcelona.
How was the transfer
Barca didn’t let him go for free for no reason. In the 2003/2004 season, Kluivert failed to reach double figures in La Liga for the first time. He suffered from knee problems and was off the court for a minute at the European Championships. Despite this, Robson’s confidence in the abilities of Kluivert, at just 28 years old, was unshakable. He still has his « best years » ahead of him and would become hugely popular at Newcastle « if he even comes close to his potential », Robson said.
A supportive coach would have been the perfect premise for Kluivert to seek form. But just weeks after the transfer, Robson was fired. Instead of a stable environment, Newcastle plunged into a chaotic season, in which teammates fought against each other on the pitch.
« The biggest mistake of my career »
In the UEFA Cup, Kluivert proved his goalscoring threat with five goals in six games, but he lacked consistency in the Premier League. Newcastle wobbled in midfield and found themselves in a disappointing 14th place.
“I always dreamed of playing in England. Looking back, I think it was one of the biggest mistakes of my career. Not because of England, but because of Newcastle,” said Kluivert at Voetbal International after fleeing to Valencia FC after just one season.
Club legend Shearer was to blame
The main reason for his failure was said to be Newcastle legend Alan Shearer, with whom Kluivert was supposed to form a storm duo. It’s all about Shearer, complained Kluivert. « Nobody can beat him, nobody can get close to him and nobody can do anything about it. »
New coach Graeme Souness still let Shearer, then 34, play. Bad decision for Kulviert, who harmonized much better with the Welshman Craig Bellamy. « We formed the perfect partnership, Souness should have chosen the two Shearers over us. »
Instead of reviving Kluivert’s career, Newcastle initiated the end. A season at Valencia was followed by year-long stints at PSV Eindhoven and LOSC Lille, where Kluivert ended his career in 2008. Now, nearly 20 years after arriving in England, the 46-year-old years is reportedly set to leave Barca again. According to the media, his contract as head of the youth academy, which expires this summer, will not be extended.