Saturday’s dramatic 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Gateshead showcased the first “real” competition for the Newcastle 2023-24 upcoming season. The match was bookended by more transfer links as well as a postmatch interview by manager Eddie Howe openly expressing frustration at constricting FFP regulations hampering the summer window.
In the interview reported on the Daily Mail, Howe stated that “nothing is close,” and that “players are expensive these days.” He echoed the sentiments of the growingly impatient fanbase by adding that “with the competitions that we’re in, having three games a week, we need to be able to rotate the team.”
As we’ve pointed out before here, there may be more going on than Howe publicly lamenting the situation with plenty of time in the window.
Expressing frustration will hopefully reinforce to other clubs that Newcastle do not have the ability to overpay for players, as well as signal UEFA that they recognize and are abiding by the spending limits.
So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that a mere 24 hours later it was widely circulated among multiple outlets that Newcastle was in the chase for Georgian winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.
Kvaratskhelia played a pivotal role in Napoli’s sixteen-point domination of the Serie A this season. While each link seemed to have a different price tag, ESPN reported a hefty €100m sum.
There is a lot to unpack with Kvaratskhelia, as the owner of Napoli is Aurelio De Laurentiis, who comes from a famous family of film producers and is a distant cousin of a familiar name in the United States: celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis. The Napoli management team is also recognized internationally as one of the most difficult club teams to negotiate in the world of soccer.
Making matters more complicated is that Kvaratskhelia was one of the players who was forced to shuffle his career due to the conflict in Ukraine. On March 7th, 2022, FIFA made a pivotal ruling that allowed all foreign players on Russian clubs to have their contracts suspended and sign for new clubs. As a result of this ruling and the continued entropy in Eastern Europe, Kvaratskhelia’s five-year contract with Rubin Kazan was suspended and he joined Georgian outfit Dinamo Batumi on March 24th, 2022. After dominating the Georgian league in the latter half of their season with 8 goals and 2 assists in 11 matches, he was acquired by Napoli in July of 2022 for around €12m.
What followed was a spectacular year for the Gli Azzurri, as the 22-year-old set a Serie A record for Serie A player of the month with three in one season, also winning Serie A Goal of the Season and Serie A MVP. He amassed 14 goals and 17 assists in 43 overall competitions primarily playing on the left wing for Manager Luciano Spalletti.
For a player who is signed through 2027 on wages of €30k/week and €1.5m annually, incredibly the 19th highest-paid player on the roster. Just for reference, this would put him at the bottom of Newcastle’s payroll, beneath Karl Darlow’s £30k/week. And yes, Darlow’s wage is in £s!
While Napoli have already begun the process of trying to appease the winger with a restructured contract including a significant raise, there is hope that this isn’t a completely fruitless chase for the Magpies. Spalletti was a widely respected and popular manager who somewhat surprisingly left the club this summer to take a break from coaching.
Besides, were Napoli to sell the Georgian for around €100m as reported, they would have transformed a fortuitous €10m investment into €90m of pure profit in just over a single calendar year. Maybe the reported raise wasn’t enough for Kvaratskhelia and his agent-or maybe this was the player Howe was targeting all along.
What do you think? Realistic target... or a hopeless chase considering the FFP limits?