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Can Newcastle dream big with Mike Ashley at the helm?

Dreams for Rafa and dreams for Ashley are mutually exclusive. But they don’t have to be.

Tottenham Hotspur v Newcastle United - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Rafa Benitez has been urging Mike Ashley for years since signing with the club in 2016 that he expects the club to have larger ambitions than they have shown previously. This included fixing the training ground, spending more money on transfers, and bringing in better young talent. During Rafa’s time at the club not only have none of those things been met, but he’s still struggling to get the owner of the club to see the bigger picture.

I get it, Mike Ashley is a businessman. Relatively successful at that as he’s built a billion dollar empire. That is no small feat. Very few people are able to build such a successful business, and while he’s done it on the back of underpaid and overworked employees, that’s a topic for another website as we don’t discuss labor disputes here.

So you would think that Mike Ashley would understand what it means to dream big. To have big goals and aspirations and do whatever it takes to actually achieve those goals and reach your potential. Rafa Benitez certainly understands what it takes. He’s done it. He’s won at the highest levels of football competition winning the Champions League, La Liga, Europa, Club World Cup, and more. He’s a competitor, and he’s damned good at it.

Mike Ashley has succeeded in many facets of business. He’s built a retail empire, and has even proven somewhat of an ability to turn around some failing numbers and turn them into good ones. He’s also a competitor and does what it takes to win.

So you would think these two minds would go hand in hand. They both want what they want, and they’re go-getters. They never settled in their professional lives, and they shouldn’t start now. But the issue is that Mike Ashley has already settled with Newcastle United. Whatever dreams he had for the club died when he realized he had to spend more than he was prepared to in order to actually compete for something. Once he realized football was more than sitting in the stands with fans and it was getting dirty in the transfer market fighting for the best signing he retreated not to be seen again for years by Newcastle fans.

Rafa Benitez has the antithesis to Mike Ashley’s approach. His messages of hope, and that the club belong higher than finishing 12th or 13th every season struck a chord with disenchanted Newcastle fans. And he has proven in every season that he refuses to let the club slip back into the Championship where we could very easily be if it weren’t for him. All he asks for is some investment to actually put his talents to better use than a relegation battle. Here’s the issue. When I said they both want what they want and go for it?

They want different things.

Fulham FC v Newcastle United - Premier League Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images

Mike Ashley can see a profit without a trophy being added to the case at St. James Park. Ashley wants the profit. The trophy is secondary. And with the way things have been going, he’s getting his cake and eating it, too. But Rafa wants something different than just profit. He’s aware that football is a business, and that in order for a business to stay afloat, you need cashflow, and profit helps that cashflow continue to...you know...flow.

But he knows that as a player and as a manager, you’re not playing or managing for a profit. You’re playing and managing for a trophy. You want to win. No player ever goes home and says, “well, hun, we lost. But I’m sure glad the team made a profit!”

Mike Ashley doesn’t understand that. And Rafa has spent three years trying to get through to him that football is as much about winning as it is about making profit. Ashley can make his profit while still investing in the club to improve it. But that investment doesn’t offer the short-term gains that Ashley is looking for.

So when I pose the question:
Can Newcastle Dream Big with Mike Ashley at the Helm?

The answer is no.