Whether a side pays top dollar or bargain basement, a new signing is always expected to do well. To say that of Newcastle FC’s new recruits would be an understatement, and no doubt they have performed admirably. Newcastle have gone from mid table security to challenging for the Champions League places in the space of a season. But was it really a risk signing them?
Suggesting their new players have come from nowhere isn’t entirely true. Both Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye were capped at international level for France and still play a role within the national team going into EURO 2012. The front two of Pappiss Cisse and Demba Ba are both regulars within the Senegal national team and have had great success at club level. Cisse managed 2nd highest goalscorer in the Bundesliga for a relegation threatened SC Freiburg , second only in the listing to Mario Gomez of Bayern Munich. His story is not too dissimilar to that of Demba Ba, who scored 7 goals in 12 league games for West Ham United despite their relegation to the Championship and was available for a free transfer thanks to his relegation clause. Rather than risking millions on players and hoping for the best, Newcastle have spent wisely on players that would suit any top division team across Europe.
Of course there’s always the potential for a brand new signing to flop, and that risk is always present when not buying known players. Manchester United fans will remember the hype surrounding £7 million signing Bebe, a player that Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t watch, but bought on the recommendation of then assistant manager Carlos Queiroz. It can be hard for players to adapt to a new league, especially one as intense as the Premier League and even more so if they’re still young. But it’s hardly as if huge fees eliminate any form of risk. The £50 million price tag paid by Chelsea for Fernando Torres was based on his potential benefits and not on his form at the time.
More than anything, it seems there’s a reluctance for some managers to look abroad to new signings. It’s unlikely foreign clubs would pay close to £35 million for Andy Carroll or £20 million for Stewart Downing, when both have failed to live up to their price tags. Instead, clubs that have little spending money tend to look abroad and make smart, potentially good signings. Borussia Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa was signed for a fee of close to a million pounds, yet two seasons later could potentially leave for a sum closer to £20 million.
The benefits of a good scouting network are plain to see, and a good youth academy costs little compared to multi-million pound signings. Newcastle deserve credit for the amount of money spent on their new recruits, but it’s not a particularly risky move, just shrewd business.