A stellar first year back in English football saw Robinho Lazaró end Newcastle United’s 170-year wait for a League Cup success and lead the club to a second-place finish in the Premier League.
Plenty of hard work awaited the now 78-year-old manager as he looked to strengthen his side for both a tilt at the title and European football. But before he could do that, out of the blue he received a job interview offer from Liverpool, who duly asked the Colombian for his backroom changes to make a sensational return to the club. That gave him a big decision to make but, eventually, he decided to continue the job he’d started at Newcastle.
With that out of the way, Lazaró’s first signing of the summer of 2062 was an absolute doozie. beating English champions Spurs and Real Madrid to the signing of elite midfielder Simone Troiani from Fiorentina for £22.5 million rising to £58 million. He also returned to former club Milan to bring in promising 6ft 5in centre-back Federico Streccia for £4.5 million before snapping up an exciting Brazilian attacker in Valdemar Barroso for £12.25 million.
Lazaró stuck with his favoured 4-3-1-2 formation, retaining trust in 35-year-old hero Juarez to lead the line.
Hopeful of a strong showing
Pre-season saw testimonials for three of Newcastle’s eight-man Brazilian contingent Oliveira, Rondinelli and Arnaldo Willemen – compared to just one English player! Lazaro was quietly confident in the squad he’d built but the media fancied them as 6th favourites for the title at 20/1 and put midfielder Manuel Gutiérrez in the dream 11. And Lazaró’s shrewd business nous saw the club drop to the 10th-highest wage spenders in the Premier League – just £2.6m compared to Liverpool’s £5.75m and Chelsea’s £4.7m.
They began well, breezing to a 3-0 home win over Leicester with Troiani opening the scoring on his debut then goals from centre-back Marcel and Oliveira. It got even better as a Juarez brace and Troiani’s goal and two assists led a 5-0 thumping of local rivals Middlesbrough. Then Barroso came off the bench to net an injury-time debut winner in a 1-0 success over Sheff United – despite Newcastle having 36 shots – before the winning start ended with Barroso scoring again in a draw at Wolves, who Newcastle have beaten once in 10 meetings!
That teed up an early clash of the top two as Newcastle welcomed Lazaró and Juarez’s former club Liverpool. Their current club totally dominated the game but, obviously, Liverpool scored their first shot. That man Juarez stepped up with the equaliser only for Soria to double his tally for a totally undeserved lead. But substitute André Pereira grabbed an injury-time equaliser to nick a point.
The good start continued as Barroso nicked a 2-1 win at Leeds, Troiani scored the only goal at home to Villa and a Juarez brace sealed a 4-0 thumping of struggling West Ham, who had a player sent off for a horror challenge inside two minutes, then Juarez and Troiani sealed a 2-1 win over Southampton. And that sent Newcastle seven points clear at the top after 10 games.
Their good form continued through to a tricky December against teams you’d fancy to be doing well but were lingering in mid-table. It began with a 2-2 draw at Chelsea before hammering reigning champions Spurs 4-0 led by a goal and two assists by Oliveira. An exhausted side finally lost at Man UFC but recovered to beat Arsenal 2-1 on Boxing Day with goals from young midfielders Kjetil Ulle and Luigy Sílva.
That left Newcastle top but, having lost just once, only leading Liverpool who had a game in hand by five points. That pair was well clear of the pack, with third-place Man UFC 13 points behind Newcastle – and only three points cover third to ninth. Willemen has the second-best average rating of 7.53 and Oliveira has the third-most assists with six, while Héctor Leguiza has a league-high 10 clean sheets. Barroso, who’s played really well with four goals in seven league games, won European Golden Boy while Lazaró’s former player Iliya Kolev won his second Ballon d’Or in three years.
Newcastle in the Champions League
But it might not last long. Newcastle drew the group of death alongside Bayern, Barcelona and Feyenoord. Ouch. And for some reason, Spurs are second favourites to win it!
It began with a trip to Munich and Newcastle did well to only lose 2-1 before a wasteful performance to draw 2-2 at home to Feyenoord. Next up was a visit from Lazaró’s former club Barca, who still had at least five of his former players and bought one of his old Wolfsburg players Arnaud Diomandé. The first half was awful but Troiani volleyed home a Gutiérrez cross to earn a well-deserved victory.
Willemen earned a 1-1 at Camp Nou to lift Newcastle into second place with two games to go. A 0-0 in Holland teed things up nicely for the final group game with Newcastle leading Feyenoord by a point and Barca already out. And Newcastle came up big at home again to qualify as Willemen, midfielder Ulle and Troiani claimed a 3-1 win over Bayern, who scored one of their two shots.
The first knockout round was even trickier as they drew 18-time winners Real Madrid. The home leg was up first and Newcastle had the better of it but Real scored against the run of play and Juarez rescued a deserved draw. They also performed superbly at the Bernabéu, holding Madrid to a 0-0 before losing their nerve to lose the penalty shootout 4-2 with Juarez and Gutiérrez missing their spot kicks.
Lazaró’s former side Milan lost in the semi-finals to seventh in the Premier League Spurs, who lifted their first-ever Champions League by beating Real 2-1 in the final. Maybe the media did know what they were talking about with the prediction!
Newcastle title challenge?
Newcastle have been champions of England four times, with the last being way back in 1927 – that’s 135 years ago! And they’ve not challenged for a title in 65 years, since Kevin Keegan’s charges in 1997. But could this be the year to rewrite the history books at St. James’ Park?
They began 2053 well with Juarez and Willemen leading a 2-0 win at Villa then a rare strike by midfielder Ian Raglan nicked a 2-1 win over Leeds. Then a fitting moment saw Juarez crown the week in which he announced he’ll retire at the end of the season by scoring the only goal at Southampton. And he reminded the world what we’ll miss out on with a brace in a 6-1 hammering of bottom side West Ham ad he won the January player of the month award.
They suffered defeats at Arsenal and Spurs but a good rest period – thanks to Lazaró throwing the kids in for the FA Cup – helped them beat Middlesbrough 4-0 led by a Troiani double and Juarez and Willemen strikes, who both also scored in a 2-2 draw at Leicester. Then a Willemen hat-trick inspired a huge 3-0 win over Man UFC to take them seven points clear of Liverpool going into the final 10 games of the season.
10 games from glory
The Toon Army’s dreams of glory were further fuelled by Oliveira scoring the only goal at home to Chelsea while Liverpool could only draw 1-1 at home to Burnley, for whom former Newcastle man Spencer Arbiso scored the equaliser! But they immediately handed that advantage back by drawing at Burnley while Liverpoool beat Leicester.
They got back to winning ways as a Juarez brace led a 3-1 win at home to Stoke. The nerves finally showed as they suffered a surprise 3-2 loss at 19th-place Brighton, but Liverpool also lost to a 93rd-minute goal at Arsenal – keeping Newcastle 10 points clear having played one more with six games remaining. Newcastle recovered to beat Man City, who picked up seven bookings to none!, 1-0 thanks to a first-half Juarez goal and Liverpool beat Spurs 2-1.
Title race heads to the wire
That kept Newcastle 10 points clear with five to play, but Liverpool still had a game in hand. Newcastle had a pretty decent run-in – until a potential title decider at Anfield if they had a bit of a stumble.
Game 1 – Everton (17th, away): First up was relegation-threatened Everton, who surely wouldn’t want to do Liverpool a favour? And they didn’t as an Oliveira goal on 33 minutes was enough for a 1-0 win. Liverpool beat City in the FA Cup semis, giving them two games in hand, then drew 0-0 with Wolves three days later.
Game 2 – Wolves (11th, home): Another dominant performance saw Newcastle rack up 25 shots to Wolves’ six. And for a third game in a row, one goal was all they needed as Willemen ended an 11-hour goal drought in first-half injury-time to seal a huge 1-0 win. Liverpool only drew 2-2 at Brighton… handing the title to Newcastle.
Newcastle United were Premier League winners for the first time!!
They celebrated the success as Juarez bagged a brace in a 3-0 win at Sheff United and beat Palace 2-0. And the final game of Juarez’s illustrious career saw him return to his and Lazaró’s former club Liverpool. He typically played superbly, creating a host of chances that his teammates missed in the first half, then sent Oliveira through for the opener early in the second half. Liverpool came back into it but that man Juarez picked up a loose ball and crossed for Barroso to score an injury-time winner. Juarez was given a huge ovation by all corners of Anfield for his player of the match performance. And Lazaró and Juarez celebrated with a big bottle of win in the manager’s office at the end of the game.
That helped Newcastle win the title by a huge 15 points from Arsenal, while Liverpool slipped to fourth! They finished on 90 points, scored a league-high 76 goals and conceded a league-low 26. Willemen and Juarez had the second- and third-best average ratings (7.47 and 7.45), Oliveira topped the assists chart with 14 and Juarez got a league-high eight player of the match awards.
This was an amazing season for an unfancied but undoubtedly top-quality Newcastle side as Robinho Lazaró wrapped up his 31st career league title.
Juarez finished his final season as Newcastle’s top scorer with 19 goals plus eight assists and a 7.35 average rating in 37 games. Even at 35 and on the verge of retirement, he’s still absolutely deadly! he finished an amazing career with 316 goals and 89 assists in 535 league games and 427 goals in 728 games in all competitions. While under Lazaró, his record is 225 goals in 302 games in all competitions. Plus he scored a cool 53 goals in 73 caps for Brazil. What a legend this man is!!
Oliveira scored 16 and got 14 assists while Willemen scored 15 and got 13 assists. Barroso and Troiani both scored nine and Gutiérrez bagged 12 assists.
Time for a new adventure?
Having turned 79 in May and with his contract expiring in the summer of 2063, Lazaró had been weighing up his options for the last 12 months or so. But the title win and Newcastle’s dwindling finances helped him to decide to take on a new challenge. One option he had been considering was, having won titles in Germany, England, Spain, Portugal and Italy, to move on to the last of Europe’s big six leagues: France.
That became a realistic option as Paris Saint-Germain sacked Billy Gilmour for the second time in six years – which was their 18th manager in 42 years – at the end of the season. Lazaró applied and was swiftly offered an interview and rapidly given the chance to become manager of PSG – which he accepted. But, if you presume PSG have dominated France and this will be a walk in the park, then think again. PSG haven’t been French champions for 13 years – after they won every title between 2022 and 2048. And they’ve only been in the top three once in the last nine seasons. So this will be a massive challenge.
How will Lazaró fare in France? And how good are the PSG of 2063? Join us next time to find out!