Spending Saudi Gold | Season 1: Spending £269 Million

Welcome to a new Football Manager Experiment on the FM Addict blog, which will hopefully be the first in a series of content that’s a little bit different from our standard FM Stories.

This experiment takes us to Newcastle United and their new moneybags Saudi owners. I decided to give this a shot because my main FM22 save, Aventuras Américas will be a Journeyman save in which we’re staying in North and South America and are very unlikely to be spending much money.

With that in mind, the objectives of Spending Saudi Gold are simple:

  • Spend ALL the money that Newcastle United have available in every transfer window.
  • No playing of matches, tactics, training, youth development, or any of those needless distractions. Simply buying (and selling) players to spend all of the Saudi gold.
  • Sim between transfer windows and resume control to spend all the transfer budget Newcastle have available.

In other words, we’re effectively the Director of Football, who does all the transfer business then leaves an assistant to take charge of matches. To do this, I decided a Geordie legend was required and created new manager Alan Shearer, who stepped through the gates at St James’ Park and swiftly set about amassing big-money targets.

Transfer budget target: £269 million

The initial starting budget was improved by £69 million by flogging a mass of Newcastle’s deadwood. Both Ryan Fraser and Miguel Almirón moved to West Ham for a silly £19 million and £18.75 million and Isaac Hayden went to Leeds for £5 million. Other exits included Jonjo Shelvey to Montpellier for £3.8 million, Javi Manquillo to Fiorentina for £3.8 million, Emil Krafth to Villa for £3.8 million and Jeff Hendrick to Lens for £2.3 million. While Fabien Schar went to West Ham on loan. But could he shift Joelinton? Nope, he turned down about a million loan moves.

The first priority was a combative midfielder and Shearer immediately found the perfect target in Declan Rice. The 22-year-old was the first Saudi Gold purchase, as he arrived for a cool £50 million rising to £85 million. And that instantly smashed the club’s record transfer after less than a week at the club!

The next arrival was a more attacking option as winger Raphinha arrived from Leeds for a relatively reasonable £18.5 million that could rise to £43.5 million. And he looks absolutely fantastic.

The midfield was given a bit more bite by the arrival of Yves Bissouma from Brighton for a respectable £20 million rising to £42 million.

And on the same day, two exciting centre-back prospects were snapped up in Goncalo Inácio, who arrived for £17.5 million rising to £29 million from Sporting, and Anel Ahmedhodzic, who’s a snip at just £5.5 million from Malmo. At the opposite end of the age scale, the troublesome full-back spots were addressed by drafting in former Barcelona and PSG defender Dani Alves (who we then realised was on sabbatical until December!) on a free transfer and Renan Lodi from Atletico for £28 million.

With the defence strengthened, Shearer went after a striker and found the perfect option in Fiorentina man Dusan Vlahovic. The 21-year-old Serb arrived for £35 million, which could rise to £55 million.

Even with all that transfer business done, there was still £70 million laying around in the transfer kitty. That was addressed by bringing in midfielder Dani Ceballos from Real Madrid for £7.5 million then snapping up Alves’ heir apparent Calegari from Fluminense for a pretty extravagant £34 million, which met his minimum fee release clause.

Shearer came into transfer deadline day having seen his transfers not start overly well. Newcastle lost 7-3 at Man UFC on opening day, although Rice and Vlahovic did score… But he still had £33 million left to make a difference.

So he went out and splurged £22.5 million rising to £27.5 million on Swedish striker Alexander Isak. Then used the leftover cash to do a season-long loan deal for Spurs midfielder Tanguy Ndombele.

That officially left the club with £0 in the transfer budget having blown £269 million on a massive summer overhaul. That left the squad looking like:

Goalkeepers: Dubravka, Darlow, Woodman

Defenders: Calegari, Dani Alves; Ahmedhodzic, Inácio, Lascelles, Fernandez, Dummett; Renan Lodi, Lewis

Midfield: Rice, Bissouma, Ndombele, Ceballos, Willock, Longstaff

Wingers: Raphinha, Saint-Maximin, Joelinton

Strikers: Vlahovic, Isak, Wilson, Gayle

Away from the players, Shearer also revamped the non-playing staff, including hiring Ruud Gullit as assistant manager to take charge of matches for him.

How did the new-look Newcastle fair?

Pretty damn well! Heading into January, Newcastle were 5th in the Premier League! Vlahovic was the second-top scorer in the league with 13 goals and Raphinha had the second-most assists with 9. Hilariously, they’d scored 49 and conceded a massive 39, but claimed some big results like a 5-3 win over Chelsea and a 1-0 win over Man United. They’d also made it to the Carabao Cup semi-finals. Vlahovic has 13 goals in 18 games, Wilson 10 in 16, Isak 8 in 16 and Raphinha 7 in 18, and Saint-Maximin has 10 assists in 22 games.

However, there was still no transfer budget to work with during the January transfer window, despite managing to get Joelinton out on loan to Blackburn for the rest of the season.

Big spending fuels successful season

But more transfers weren’t required as the summer efforts helped Newcastle finish 4th in the Premier League in 2021/22! They scored a league-high 95 goals and conceded 69, which shows the entertainment is well and truly back at Newcastle. They were 20 points behind champions Man UFC, 17 behind Liverpool and 12 back from Arsenal.

Vlahovic finished the season with an amazing 31 goals in 31 league games, finishing tied with Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the scoring charts. That also won him the European Golden Boot and English Players’ Young Player of the Year. While Raphinha got 14 league assists, only behind Bruno Fernandes and Martin Odegaard.

Away from the league, there was also some silverware for the Geordie Nation to celebrate as they won the Carabao Cup. A Vlahovic brace and goals by Bissouma – who only scored twice all season – and Isak led them to a 4-1 thumping of Chelsea in the Final.

Vlahovic scored 33 in all competitions, followed by Isak (21), Wilson (15), Raphinha (8), Saint-Maximin and Willock (7), Ceballos (6) and Inácio and Rice (3). Saint-Maximin got 18 assists in all competitions, followed by Raphinha (17), Isak (13), Lodi (11), Willock (8), Wilson (5) and Vlahovic (4). While Raphinha was the top performer with an average rating of 7.62, followed by Vlahovic (7.57), Isak (7.47), Saint-Maximin (7.30) and Wilson (7.18).

Most of the big-money summer signings performed well, but Calegari struggled a little and Ndombele on loan, unsurprisingly, was a bit of a disaster.

The good news for the purpose of this save is that Newcastle will have a transfer budget of at least £133 million going into the summer transfer window.

Join us this time next week (Wednesday, 24 November) to find out how Alan Shearer will go about spending it!

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